Gaga alert! Restaurant is 'health hazard'

New York City health officials find six 'critical' violations of basic hygiene standards

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Indy Lifestyle Online

If Lady Gaga's parents thought that autograph-hunting rubberneckers and the odd unhappy diner were the biggest challenge they faced as budding New York-based restaurateurs, they must think again. Health inspectors from the city's restaurant team last week added to their woes when they branded Joanne Trattoria, the Upper West Side bistro owned by the singer's parents, a potential health hazard.

Joseph and Cynthia Germanotta, who last February opened their Italian-themed bistro – featuring recipes dreamed up by their pop-star daughter – were told they had flouted several basic hygiene rules and risked exposing the food they serve to a "potential source of contamination".

A Department of Health inspection found six "critical" sanitary violations during an inspection last week, which meant hygiene had deteriorated since the team's previous visit in August.

The bleak report comes on top of a series of dire reviews. The New York Daily News recently said eating at the establishment was "worse than getting herpes". The New Yorker described a homemade focaccia as being "good in the same way that the garlic bread at Domino's is good", while the squid in the grilled calamari salad had "almost no flavour at all".

Such negative reviews are in stark contrast to the views of the trattoria's biggest fan, Lady Gaga herself. The singer put her recent 25lbs weight gain down to how "freaking delicious" the menu is. "I'm telling you I gain 5lbs every time I go in there," she told the radio show host Elvis Duran.

The New York City health inspectors' verdict, posted online, found eight separate sanitary violations. These included the "personal cleanliness" of its staff, which was "inadequate". One "outer garment" worn was "soiled with possible contaminant", while one food worker failed to use the "proper utensil to eliminate bare hand contact with food that will not receive adequate heat treatment".

Other complaints concerned surfaces used to prepare food, which were "not properly washed, rinsed and sanitised" after each use, and the use of cloths that were "soiled" or "not stored in sanitising solution".

Until their appeal, the Germanottas do not have to display the "C" grade – the lowest issued by city officials – but can instead tell diners the hygiene grade is "pending".

Joanne Trattoria initially had plenty of paying fans. But online reviews from sites such as Yelp have turned sharply negative recently. Criticisms have ranged from the quality of the dishes to the service received.

Celebrity closures

The Fat Duck, a Michelin-starred restaurant run by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, was forced to close temporarily in 2009 after a poisoning scare saw hundreds of people – including the sports presenter Jim Rosenthal – reported to have fallen sick after eating there. Infected oysters were blamed.

Angela Hartnett at the Connaught – one of the jewels in Gordon Ramsay's empire – closed unexpectedly in 2007. Ramsay was said to be unhappy about plans to deliver restaurant food to hotel guests demanding room service.

Britney Spears's New York restaurant, NYLA, got lousy reviews after opening in 2002. A minor breach of "health code violations" was the final straw. It closed five months later.