Pat’s Steaks Owner Frank Olivieri Fires Back Over Health Inspection Coverage
On Thursday night at 5 p.m., 6ABC’s Monica Malpass and Brian Taff put on their most serious news anchor faces possible to introduce the night’s “Big Story,” a report from station veteran Vernon Odom about restaurant health inspections at two iconic Philadelphia institutions: Pat’s Steaks and Di Bruno Bros.
By Friday morning, their coverage as well as coverage from other outlets (the original story seems to have come earlier in the week from Sam Wood at Philly.com) were the No. 1 Facebook trend in Philadelphia and remained in the top three as of lunchtime. NBC10’s report remains one of the lead stories on the station’s website.
So what’s all the fuss about? Was Pat’s shut down for serving up ratsteaks? Was Di Bruno’s shuttered because employees were caught on secret video getting a little too intimate with the pepperoni? No. As it turns out, although the city deems some of their violations “serious” (an example of one of Pat’s “serious” violations: an open coffee cup … read the full inspection here), they fared pretty well as far as city restaurants go.
We got Pat’s owner Frank Olivieri on the phone to see what he thought of their report.
Hey, how you doing?
Better than you today, I imagine.
My feather’s fucking up like Cochise. I am going to put my Friends’ Select Quaker education on the fucking side right now and tell you how I really feel.
Were you surprised to see the story hit — well, actually, lead — the TV news, especially two weeks after the inspection took place?
The original story was brought to me, I talked to some guy named Sam Cooke [he means Sam Wood], and he’s asking me all these questions. Listen, I’m a ServSafe instructor. I actually teach the course. I’m certified to proctor the test. My guys are ServSafe-certified. My restaurant does not have a lot of problems like this.
But you did have some violations.
The inspector comes in and comes to my manager — I was in Florida at the time — and says, You have a coffee cup here with no lid and no straw. Who is going to be drinking 180-degree coffee with a bar straw? The cup was in the food prep area right near the coffee pot. The person was drinking the coffee!
There was also talk of mouse droppings.
They found an old mouse dropping in the basement where there is no storage except sealed soda. [The health department confirms that whatever mouse droppings were found were, in fact, old and found in the basement, and that this was not a repeat violation, i.e. there were no mouse droppings found on the previous inspection.]
Oh, and then they found that one of the brooms or mops wasn’t clipped onto the wall. And there was some residue in an ice machine. This was our backup ice machine, which we wipe down once a week, and it just needed to be wiped down. They hadn’t done it yet. It’s not a hazard. It’s not going to kill you.
Right, and actually the city doesn’t even classify the old mouse dropping as a serious infraction.
You ever hear of anyone dying from an open coffee cup? And they also violated me because they saw an employee take a knife and cut a sandwich at the register and then do it again with the same knife without wiping it down.
So what’s wrong with that?
Every single solitary time you cut one, you are supposed to wipe it off. Eighty-six years of service and no one has gotten sick from cutting a cheesesteak with a knife that was just used to cut a cheesesteak. We only sell one product here. We don’t have chicken cheesesteaks. There’s no chance of cross-contamination.
And, you know, it’s interesting that the two places that the news is focusing on are Italian. We are Italian strongholds in the city. Did they do this with Le Bec-Fin? … But no. You’ve got … Monica Malpass teasing it on the news like we’re serving fucking uranium and killing people.
[Asked for a comment, 6ABC Vice President Mike Monsell said, “Our report reflects the findings provided by the Philadelphia Health Department. The subjects of the report were contacted, in advance, and were offered the ability to make comment on the Health Departments findings.”]
Who are you more angry at: the health department or the news?
No, no, I praise the health department for checking restaurants. I don’t wanna get sick. I don’t wanna get hepatitis. I don’t wanna eat bad shellfish that hasn’t been stored properly. I praise the health department.
It’s the media. The media is blowing these infractions totally out of proportion. It’s the most insane thing. With the news, it could be a penny and all of a sudden it turns into a thousand-dollar fucking bill.
You know, I wonder, was it because Donald Trump wasn’t going to be in the debate? Is Disney that hard up for ratings that they’re making the newscasters tease these stories? [Disney owns 6ABC.]
Most people I know who work in restaurants pretty much say that there’s no restaurant in the city that doesn’t have mice or some other pest at one point or another.
We are in the inner city. I’m at ground level. So if my cellar gate is open and there’s something running by and it falls down through my cellar door, you can’t control that. If a pigeon or a cat or a homeless person runs in, I can’t stop that from happening. And then if something gets trapped in my basement and can’t find its way up 17 steps to get out, I’m sure it’s going to be scared and maybe shit itself.
But 86 years, I’ve never been sued for food-borne illnesses. Once, a guy said he swallowed a toothpick. We don’t have toothpicks in the store! He couldn’t have sex with his wife anymore as a result, and so he sues me. He was just drunk and came in with the toothpick.
But back on the subject, how do you control your pest issues?
We have Terminix come in once a week. My building was completely renovated 17 or 18 years ago. The workers couldn’t believe how pest-free it was when they were doing that. They told me that it was cleaner than any five-star restaurant in Center City. I’m in the business to sell cheesesteaks, not to sell sickness to people.
You’re exactly right. You are in the business of selling cheesesteaks. But Channel 6 is also in the business of selling something, right?
I’m Quaker-educated, meaning I have to look at both sides. Yes, they have to sell advertising. The more sensational you are, the more money you make on the ads. Nobody knew what a Kardashian was 10 years ago. Reality TV — that sells. And with the news, the beginning of each episode you see car crashes, fires and death. And then at the end, maybe there’s the little boy walking the old lady across the street so she doesn’t get hit by the bus. It’s pathetic.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.