[Update below] Forget anything we ever said about DOH leniency because it looks like the agency has been on quite a tear recently; it's an especially dangerous time to serve pizza. The latest restaurant to get rapped on the knuckles is the world-renowned Brooklyn pizzeria Di Fara, which was slapped with 42 violation points on their most recent inspection. Yesterday, Maggie Demarco—daughter of now legendary pizzaiolo Dom Demarco—took to Facebook to explain their plight, saying a stack of extra chairs in the kitchen was responsible for their score.
As an established business of almost 50 yrs, the rule is that we are only allowed 19 seats unless we build a public, wheelchair restroom. It has never been explained to us clearly how the number of 19 is decided. A few years ago we purchased extra seats as we do get very crowded most of the time. We were always kind and would bring out an extra chair if someone asked. We were asked to remove the extra chairs from the premises as we will be inspected again. Those folding chairs caused us to get a B grade.
According to the DOH's website, their top violation related to a "toilet facility not provided for employees or for patrons when required," which seems to concur with the restaurant's statement. Having a wheelchair-accessible restroom is definitely important, but for a non food-related violation, this seems pretty excessive. We reached out to the DOH for comment and will update if we hear back. For their part, the restaurant says they "will no longer have anymore than 19 seats at all times."
Di Fara was quick to point out that getting a bad inspection report "rarely ever means anything hazardous to the public," even though our former mayor might disagree. This isn't the first scrape Di Fara has experienced with the DOH; it's been shuttered multiple times for more unsanitary violations.
Update: The Health Department replied to our request for comment, saying, "No, they were not cited for having chairs stacked. Di Fara’s had expanded the number of seats in its restaurant to the point where it required a public restroom. They were cited for not having a public restroom." That's somewhat in-line with the restaurant's statement, though they did claim chairs were in the kitchen not on the dining room floor. The restaurant's current B grade stems from an inspection in August of last year (the recent inspection was ungraded). They'll have an opportunity to earn a different grade when the DOH returns to make its graded inspection at some point in the future.