Pricey restaurants don't always make the grade - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Pricey restaurants don't always make the grade


MADISON (WKOW) -- Dozens of restaurants in Dane County each year are slapped with fines for health code violations.

27 News began looking through the list last week by citing some of the more moderate incidents.

We continue the list in Part 2 with restaurants that are a little more upscale. Nonetheless, they were also cooking up critical violations in the kitchen.

Inside Biaggi's on Madison's far west side, the menu is filled with Italian cuisine, but health code violations were piling up out of the customers' sight.

After a review of closed cases so far this year in Dane County, Biaggi's racked up the most citations (6 in total, 4 labeled critical).

Problems initially found in October 2008 included marsala and seafood toppings improperly marked or held beyond expiration dates, and heavy mold near the ice machine and drain lines.

Madison-Dane County Environmental Health director Tommye Schneider said the mold isn't only part of the problem upon discovery in cases like these.

"The cleanliness is not adequate for that ice machine, and if there's mold, there could be bacteria growing too," said Schneider.

The kitchen staff at Biaggi's also couldn't reach the hand sink, and the restaurant failed to have someone on staff who was certified by the state.

The latter is important. Such certification is one of the first things an inspector ask to see.

"There needs to be someone in the restaurant that has enough of an understanding, who has taken some kind of coursework, and passed an exam, has enough information that can train their co-workers," said Schneider. She cited a survey that indicated Dane County kitchens experience high employee turnover. Frontline food handlers only work at a place, on average, for 4-6 months. Managers only stay for one to two years at a time.

After six hundred dollars in fines, the problems were eventually corrected at the Junction Road location by this past spring. A corporate representative told 27 News that the restaurant has had a recent change in management, and that the most recent health inspection turned up nothing more than a broken tile.

We also found violations at a competitor of Biaggi's.

In May 2009, inspectors discovered two critical violations at the King Street location of Tutto Pasta.

In both cases, ingredients were too warm. Mozzarella was three degrees too hot. Raw shrimp was found sitting six degrees higher than allowed.

As we earlier saw during a routine inspection, every raw ingredient has to be as cold as the code dictates to stop the possible growth of bacteria. There's no leniency.

"It's an educational type of inspection," said Schneider. "Point out what the problems are, explain them fully, sit down at the end after the inspection, make sure they understand what we're talking about."

Tutto pasta corrected its problems.  The owner, Bran Lamphier, said the inspection took place shortly after he bought the location.  After the violations were found, it was discovered that the placement of a refrigerator contributed to overheating toward the top, where the suspect food was found.  Lamphier said after it was realized, changes were made in the kitchen to prevent the issue from reoccurring.

Last year, other restaurants were hit harder with violations than these two. Now, those establishments are out of business. We'll tell you which ones next week.

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