RED ALERT: 10 News uncovers restaurant overrun with roaches

4:43 AM, Jun 20, 2013   |    comments
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SARASOTA, Florida- Café Amalfi claims to have the best Italian in all of Sarasota. Cindy Hamilton says she was one of the restaurant's satisfied customers, that is, until an experience a few weeks ago while sitting down with a friend for lunch.

"My girlfriend was going to take a drink of water, and she pointed to the glass and there was...a roach on the glass of ice water," said Hamilton, and she wasn't alone. 

We found complaint after complaint, most reporting roaches, some even crawling across customers!

PHOTOS: Can YOU count the roaches?!

"I'm like oh crap! I'm petrified," admitted Hamilton of the roach situation. "We didn't even eat half of our food. I wasn't eating any more.

Hamilton's complaint, along with others filed with the state, resulted in a temporary emergency closure the first week of June. The restaurant was allowed to reopen after meeting state inspection standards the following day.

So Tuesday afternoon, we stopped in. The restaurant's owner told us over the phone his kitchen was perfectly clean and invited us to look around.

That's what we did, and within seconds we started spotting our first roaches and multiple insects crawling across clean dinner plates stacked up for customers.

That was just the beginning. We spotted more bugs living underneath the dish washing area, roaches crawling into the walk in cooler where food was stored on the ground, and a whole family of roaches lined up in the crevice of a metal pan used for cooking.

Roaches were also crawling around in dining room, right up the wall. But it wasn't just bugs; we discovered other problems as well.

When we asked an employee if there was any soap to use while he was washing his hands he replied, "Not at the moment." 

In fact, as far as we could tell, not a single sink had any soap for employees to use- something the state consider to be a high priority violation.

By the time the owner, John D'Atria, arrived we had come across plenty of problems we wanted to discuss.

"Not now, we're ready for dinner time," said D'Atria before adding he had no interest in allowing us back into the kitchen again.

We explained tthat the conditions we found in the kitchen were concerning and, in our opinion, would warrant an imminent threat to public health.

"That's not true sir. We had the board of health here and they gave us a clean bill of health," argued D'Atria. "They checked the whole place"

Customers had a much different view after we shared news of our findings.

"Well, we won't eat here because there are roaches crawling across the dinner plates," said Paula Dimaggio. "Its not clean if they're not talking care of it. If I saw one I'd leave, never mind colonies of them- that's disgusting!" 

Dimaggio also said she was glad we happened to meet in the parking lot..."because you saved us from a very unpleasant experience."

10 News sent video of our visit to state regulators who returned to the restaurant Wednesday morning and immediately closed the restaurant's doors.  The emergency closure documented 22 new violations, including one dead roach in the food display case at the front counter, and live roaches on the pizza trays, inside the bread warmer and in a drawer with utensils.

The state is scheduled to return Thursday for a follow up inspection to determine if the restaurant meets state standards to reopen.

Follow 10 News Reporter Beau Zimmer on twitter @Zimm10

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