HUDSON, Fla.- Located on busy State Road 52, Towne House Pizza is famous in Pasco County and popular among students at nearby Fivay High School.
"They have good pizza. Some of the deals are good," said Fivay Sophomore Chase Lambert.
But what isn't good is the restaurant's December 13th state inspection. The Division of Hotels and Restaurants documented 27 critical violations. Among the problems: temperature abuse on the ham, veal, chicken wings, and cheese; food stored on the floor; a dirty microwave and mixer head; and objectionable odors coming from bathroom.
But it was the 200-plus rodent droppings found throughout the kitchen that prompted the state to force an emergency closure. The inspector noted an overwhelming smell of rodent urine, along with live roaches found under the prep counter.
We asked Donald Gerken if he'd eat at Towne House Pizza. "Oh, no. Defiantly not," he said. "It's shocking too because I'm a full-time student going for my culinary degree with a plan to open my own restaurant."
We showed the state's report to Gerken, who was shocked to see so many violations. "That's really disturbing! Live roaches, roaches on the wall by the walkway, that's crazy."
We wanted to know if the restaurant cleaned up its kitchen. We stopped in, but as we shook hands, the manager didn't let go. He pulled me outside, apparently uncomfortable with a camera in the kitchen.
We asked if the problems were corrected.
"Yeah, the next morning it was corrected," said the manager.
When we asked for permission to look in the kitchen, we were told no. "That's what the inspector is for."
And while the manager said all issues were corrected, he also refused to show us a copy of his latest inspection report, telling us it was available online or through the state, a violation of state law.
We were whisked out of the kitchen so quickly we really have no idea what's going on inside. Restaurant management assures us all the problems are corrected, when in fact state records show the restaurant still requires a follow up inspection by the state.
The restaurant actually had 18 violations on the state's most recent visit. The back-to-back state inspections turned up too many problems for the culinary student to overlook.
"I would definitely not recommend this place for anything," said Gerken. "That's just wrong. People are going to get sick three different ways with just the four things I was able to read of the 27 different things. That's just a stopper right there. I would definitely not recommend eating here until they can get the situation fixed."