Frank Bonanno admits he's a "dick" when it comes to court battles with the health department

Frank Bonanno 3.jpg
Lori Midson

Opinionated. Tenacious. Temperamental. And, at times, a "dick," especially when he's in a courtroom arguing his case on front of a judge, who's presiding over the latest infraction levied against him by the Denver Department of Environmental Health, with whom Frank Bonanno, who owns Luca d'Italia, Mizuna, Bones, Lou's Food Bar, Russell's Smokehouse, Green Russell, Wednesday's Pie and Osteria Marco, has had an ongoing caustic relationship.

Two months ago, I was in the courtroom with Bonanno, while he attempted to explain to a judge why cheese -- namely burrata -- should be served at room temperature, rather than at 41 degrees, which is the legal requirement. It was one of several violations that landed him in court that day. Bonanno has been unabashedly outspoken against the policies of the Denver Department of Environmental Health for the last year, even posting a missive on his blog aimed at Danica Lee, the department's food program manager, who's also inspected several of Bonanno's restaurants.

But he didn't stop there: Matt Rodbard, a contributing editor of Food Republic, an online site devoted to food, drinks, design, travel and politics, was recently in Denver, where he embarked on a five-hour, five-restaurant binge, allocating some of his spare time in the Mile High City to shoot the shit with Bonanno, who tells Rodbard, among other things, that if the department of health is going to waste his time, it's no skin off his back to waste theirs.

Read on for Bonanno's other musings.


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24 comments
SS
SS

Get a clue. If you are having your own BBQ in the backyard, you can let the coleslaw sit out all day for all I care. If I am paying you, and paying government employees tax dollars to make sure you put the coleslaw back in the fridge, somebody better ensure it gets done.  

Jenbrown481
Jenbrown481

I happen to know that your beloved menu item was routinely making people ill.

Jon S
Jon S

What is the point here? Nobody is complaining that Frank's restaurants received violations. Other restaurants aren't fabricating stories about imagined health inspector vendettas and going to court instead of fixing the violations that are found. They actually seem to find ways to correct them. Oh, and I don't see other chefs going to the media while completely lying about the actual violations, and essentially promising not to fix them. If you bothered to read or comprehend the story, that is the issue with what Frank is doing.

LarryS
LarryS

So you're pretty much telling the world that Watercourse and City O City gets violations? Great marketing buddy, great....

LarryS
LarryS

Read the full report under comments for one of Frank's inspections: Please review the Civil Penalty Fine Schedule, Basic Food Safety Class Schedule, and Basic Food Safety Toolkit available in English and Spanish on www.denvergov.org/phi. This Limited Inspection was conducted in response to a complaint investigation. CEASE AND DESIST ORDER: CEASE AND DESIST ORDER: OPERATOR IS HEREBY ORDERED TO RESTRICT ALL ILL EMPLOYEES FROM WORK FOR A MINIMUM OF 48 HOURS AFTER SYMPTOMS SUBSIDE. OPERATOR SHALL RESTRICT BARE HAND CONTACT ON ALL READY-TO-EAT FOODS. FAILURE TO COMPLY WILL RESULT IN FURTHER ENFORCEMENT ACTION. 02c - Employees observed not handwashing when required, eg. between glove changes, between tasks, upon returning to work station, etc. Observed pantry cook toss salad with gloved hands, change gloves without washing hands as required, donned on new gloves, then proceeded with assembling a new salad. Employees shall wash hands in between glove changes as required. Explained and corrected. 02d - Handsinks are inappropriately being used for food prep, dumping of mop water, soiled utensil storage, etc. Observed two wait staff dump water bottles bussed from customer tables in the hand sink at the beverage/server station. Designated handsinks shall be used exclusively for handwashing and shall be accessible at all times. Explained and corrected. 02g - Employee uses bare hand to contact ready-to-eat foods. Observed bare hand contact while food handler at the cheese station was assembling ready-to-eat cheese and deli meats. There shall be no bare hand contact on ready-to-eat foods. Explained and corrected. 03d - Raw shell eggs are being used instead of pasteurized eggs in ready-to-eat foods. Bartender stated Verde cocktail is topped with egg white foam from unpasteurized, raw shell egg white. The beverage menu does not indicate that unpasteurized, raw shell egg white is an ingredient in the cocktail. Pasteurized eggs shall used in ready-to-eat foods/beverages unless the menu clearly states unpasteurized, raw shell eggs are used as an ingredient. Inspector recommended operator include a disclaimer on the menu that the consumption of raw or undercooked potentially hazardous foods may lead to foodborne illness. 03e - Potentially hazardous foods are being held improperly at temperatures greater than 41° F during cold storage. The following potentially hazardous foods were held at temperatures above 41°F: pantry cold top- 9-pan of aioli* 48, bleu cheese dressing 48, cooked beans 49; pantry lowboy- third pan of cooked chicken breast* 48; cheese station lowboy- 6 pans of burrata cheese* 56-58, 1/2 cup of capra ricotta* 51. Chef stated the aioli and chicken breast were stocked in the cold top/lowboy at 10 am. The remaining items in the pantry station were stocked from food prepared the previous day or earlier and stored overnight continuously in the walk in cooler. The ambient air temperature of the pantry lowboy read 48°F. Chef and food handler at the cheese station stated the burrata (prepared on 3/28/12) and capra ricotta were stored on the wire rack at the cheese station for greater than 4 hours during lunch service then placed back in the lowboy. Other cheeses stored continuously in the lowboy measured between 38-42°F. Inspector recommended using Time as a Public Health Control with Chef and approved the application for burrata cheese and capra ricotta at the cheese station. The potentially hazardous foods marked with an asterisk were held at temperatures above 41°F for greater than 4 hours and were subsequently discarded. Potentially hazardous foods shall be held cold as required. Chef placed potentially hazardous foods in an ice bath to facilitate cold holding. Ice used to store potentially hazardous foods shall be at least the same level as the food to maintain proper cold holding temperatures. 07a - Evidence of insects is found in facility. Observed small winged insects similar to fruit flies/phorid flies in the kitchen, beverage/server station (specifically around the bin holding empty wine bottles), and dish room. Operator shall clean the walls and floors, as well as the drains daily, ensuring there is no standing water/liquid that could potentially act as a breeding ground for fruit/phorid flies. Review enforcement actions Select Another Inspection New Search Return to Main Menu Thank you for visiting our site.If you would like to provide feedback, please email us at: phicomments@ci.denver.co.us

Scott B
Scott B

Thanks for posting that link. It's hard to be taken seriously spouting moral indignation about Burrata holding temps when you're also keeping aioli, beans, chicken, etc., all above 41 degrees. That's basic process control. And it's bullshit to go on about city inspectors being corrupt and trying to raise revenue. Go browse the reports for a few of your favorite restaurants. The places that have made me sick show repeated evidence of lax hygiene practices (observed temperature and handwashing violations). The places that haven't, don't. Imagine that.

guest
guest

If you watched the news, you'd know that Diablo and Sketch were closed by the building department for an unsafe building.

Carol Kreck
Carol Kreck

Wow. So this is the answer to why the city suddenly shut down El Diablo and Sketch. I had gone to WW looking for information on Morreale and found these great interviews of Simmons and Bonnano. And the Bonnano feature answered the big Morreale question. Hancock needs to figure out a better way...

Cheese_Steak
Cheese_Steak

Any parent who feeds their children at JITB or any other fast-food burger chain should be charged with child abuse.

dummy
dummy

 sheesh, go look up the five crime families on Wiki.

Runningmoose3
Runningmoose3

Frank, maybe you should read your regulations to find the section of the regulations which allows you to serve your cheeses at 58F - 72F. It's called Time as a Public Health Control. it allows you to remove the food from temperature control and mark it with that time removed. It can remain at room temperature until served of for 4 hours before it must be discarded. You can also provide testing that may determine that the cheese can be held at room temperature by using the FDA Food Code Table 2 which help restauranteurs to determine if the acidity or available water are low enough to prevent growth of harmful bacteria. It seems to work for other restaurants. Why haven't you tried either of these?

epl
epl

 Is it the 11th Amendment that enumerates the right to eat meat at whatever temperature you want?  Or the 14th?  I can never keep my Constitutional food rights straight. 

Kaz
Kaz

The whole system is corrupt. At least Frank has the balls to speak up for the rest of us restauranteurs.

AliceH
AliceH

There is a well-known restaurant in Denver that had an entree which we have forever loved. It is rarely served or cooked properly at any other places. After being harassed by the same group of thugs that are out of control, this fabulous restaurant capitulated to them, now according to these regulations, the item is inedible, soon to be taken off the menu. It is a crime that we are not allowed to have the choice of what degree of doneness we prefer to have foods prepared. If the restaurants want, perhaps have the customer sign a waiver, but this is reprehensible and beyond irrational behavior. Get out of our businesses let us decide what we want. If we don't want to eat at a place, that is our decision, but this "power" trip you are on is going to drive people out of the industry. Your parameters are nothing but obvious ploys to destroy basic freedoms. Unless you are trained chefs, you are not qualified to determine the temperature of cheeses, safety of preparation of what we eat! I am sure you will determine steak tartare is on your list, how about sushi etc, Buzz off you bureaucrats............

Mantonat
Mantonat

And now there's something wrong with IHOP employees? Jesus, dude, there's no end to your hatred. Or your obsession with the word "dick." Let it go. Literally.

Mantonat
Mantonat

I do think it's pretty entertaining that we've gone from a story about the temperature that cheese should be stored and served at to "the whole system is corrupt." About as close to Godwin's Law as you can get.

LarryS
LarryS

When your own staff are sick and the people who eat there, that's a good clue.

Bettypage
Bettypage

And what do you do Charlie? How about I post personal attacks regarding my opinion on how you do your job? This is beyond issues with the health department. Don't know Danica or Amy, no one deserves that.

Yeahright
Yeahright

Lori that's a total cop out. Since when do you copy and re-run other interviews letting your friends and Westword advertisers just spout off while knowing there is a back story to this? Seriously?

Jon S
Jon S

Here's thre craziest part. Apparently the inspector (I can only assume it's this Danica he's launching ad-hominem attacks against) apparently has tried to work with Frank on this. Read the inspection report: http://www.denvergov.org/eh/tabid/435234/Default.aspx?establismentId=8973&InspectionDate=3/29/2012 Here is this line: "Inspector recommended using Time as a Public Health Control with Chef and approved the application for burrata cheese and capra ricotta at the cheese station. The potentially hazardous foods marked with an asterisk were held at temperatures above 41°F for greater than 4 hours and were subsequently discarded" If I'm reading this correctly, Danica recommended he apply for the Time as a Public Health Control and approved it. However, he had stuff sitting out even longer than the 4 hours allowed. It does not take burrata over 4 hours to reach room temp. Oh, and the burrata was measured at 56-58 degrees, not the 46 he claims. Frank, I've really enjoyed you're food and what you are doing at your restaurants on many occasions. But what the hell, man? Your rant doesn't seem to be based in reality. The health dept. seems like it has been working with you, and you come off as just a flat out liar in all of this. Is it that hard to follow basic health precautions? I've got a pregnant wife, no way in hell I'm patronizing one of your restaurants now with your cavalier disregard for public health.

Runningmoose3
Runningmoose3

You can eat food at any temperature you want. The restaurant still ahs to refirgerate it or hold it hot to make it safe for those who do not want to play around with their gastric helath or their lives. Ask a parent of a Jack-In-The Box child who died from under-cooked hamburgers about how they feel!

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