WESTFIELD, NJ – A hearing took place between the Westfield Board of Health and Fiamma Wood Fired Pizza on Quimby Street at Monday night’s meeting.
According to health inspector Alison Kasica, Fiamma received three consecutive conditional ratings between May of 2016 and June of 2017 for recurrent issues, mainly the hand-washing sink and the cooling temperatures for foods. Fiamma was represented by Qazim Magjuni and Sam Bek, two of its three owners.
“On my first visit, In the prep area the water was completely turned off on the hand-washing sink,” Kasica said. “On my second visit, they removed the hand wash-sink completely and had replaced it with a prep sink, making no hand-washing sink available. There’s one hand-wash sink in the front area.”
According to Magjuni, the hand-washing sink was moved out due to construction and was replaced by an unused prep sink, which he did not know could be substituted for a hand-washing sink. The employees were draining pastas and soups in the dry compartment of a three-basin sink, he said. Since then, the hand washing sink has been put back.
“This is our worst nightmare,” Magjuni said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the better restaurants.”
Magjuni also said that the food temperatures are inconsistent due to an overcrowding of the refrigerator, which he plans to remedy by installing an additional refrigerator. Items on the top of the fridge were properly cooled but items on the bottom were too warm, which he blamed on the compressors underneath the unit that blow out hot air.
“We plan to buy another unit,” Magjuni said. “Next week we’re going to buy a fridge and spread out the load.”
Lastly, Kasica said she spotted a single cockroach in the sink during her most recent walk-in visit. She agreed that it was an isolated incident, and Magjuni hired a new exterminator that comes once a week, he said.
In attendance at the hearing was Sherry Cronin from the Downtown Westfield Corporation, who said Fiamma is one of Westfield’s most successful restaurants.
“Fiamma is one of the most important restaurants we have,” Cronin said. “It’s known as one of the top restaurants in the state for pizza.”
The Westfield Board of Health agreed that if Fiamma receives a rating that’s less than satisfactory within the next year, the restaurant must close for two days. Magjuni also promised that the restaurant will be satisfactory by next week, when Kasica will return.
Following the hearing, the board discussed Vine Ripe Markets, which mislabeled food last month. According to Helen Mendez, Principal Health Inspector, the store sets its own sell-by dates.
“They can put whatever sell-by date on there that they want as long as it’s not spoiled,” Mendez said.
Vine Ripe Markets can set its own date on all items except dairy, Mendez said.
Additionally, Mendez said the Empanada Guy, who was issued a summons by the Westfield Municipal Court, has improved following a court hearing regarding unsatisfactory conditions.
“Things have gotten a lot better since the summonses were issued,” Mendez said. “They’ve done a lot of training and hired food safety specialists. Unfortunately, they took the summons as an issue for them to come into this ordinance.”
Lastly, the board reviewed tobacco regulations in Westfield. They had previously discussed raising the age to purchase tobacco products in Westfield to 21, but Governor Chris Christie recently raised the age to 21 state-wide.
According to Megan Avallone, Health Officer, there were 14 sales of tobacco products to underage consumers last month. Only four of those violations took place in Westfield, with the rest occurring in other towns inspected by Westfield health inspectors.
Raceway gas station on Central Avenue has violated tobacco regulations three times, Avallone said. Raceway is charged an increased fine with each violation but the board of taxation will review the gas station's license to sell tobacco, Mendez said.
“We’re letting each location know about the change in law and that they’ll get an official notice from the board of taxation,” Avallone said.