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Chef Shoves Camera Covering Health Violations in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring And The District

1:09 PM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA9) - A well-known Bethesda chef shoved a 9 Wants to Know camera before returning to apologize and agreeing to address a roach and mouse infestation that led to a health department order to close her restaurant.

Mia's Pizza, 4926 Cordell Avenue in Bethesda, was one of five area restaurants closed for health department violations in the week ending October 5th.

Owner Melissa "Mia" Ballinger was questioning our crew as to why we were covering the rodent and roach infestation closure when she noticed the camera rolling.

"I'm not sure why you feel it necessary..." Ballinger said calmly at first before raising her voice and pushing the camera away. "Do not take a picture of me."

In the caught on tape confrontation, Ballinger immediately responded to our crew's order to stop touching the camera and went back inside her restaurant, only to return minutes later apologizing.

"If you want to come in, definitely, please come in," Ballinger said. "You'll see that our kitchen is not dirty."

When we looked inside her kitchen and under equipment, we didn't identify any of the health risks reported by the Montgomery County Health Department.

Inspectors cited mouse droppings on the floor, and on canned goods.

The October 16th inspection also cited live roaches on the counter and on a cutting board during food prep.

She said the restaurant has bleach-cleaned the floors and food surfaces and contracted with an exterminator.

"I do take a tremendous amount of pride in my business," Ballinger said. "It was unexpected. We had been taking extreme measures to alleviate this problem and we'll continue to do so."

Well known Silver Spring restaurant cited for mouse droppings on meat slicer

Health agents also reported roaches and rodents at Vicino Ristorante Italiano, 959 Sligo Avenue in Silver Spring, citing droppings found on the meat slicer, the prep table and shelves.

The manager invited us in, saying they'd hired an exterminator and complied , but we found what looked like mice droppings on the kitchen floor.

Although the manager agreed the debris was possibly rodent feces, he believed, if so, it could only be blamed on the mice that were there prior to their clean-up.

Whatever that was, a worker swept it away while our cameras were rolling.

You can review the video to see the conditions in the rest of the Vicino kitchen.

U Street Corridor restaurant cited for no hot water

Just off the U Street Corridor, inspectors cited Ghion Ethiopian Restaurant, 2010 9th St. N.W., for operating with no hot water, and no food safety manager.

Gaithersburg restaurant cited for young and old roaches

At Hunan Palace, 9011 Gaither Road in Gaithersburg, we tried to look around after a health department closure there, but workers asked us to leave.

Inspectors cited a roach infestation at Hunan Palace reporting old dead and live roaches of all life stages found on the counter, shelves, and in the Chinese restaurant's sauce packets storage containers.

Gaithersburg restaurant cited for potentially dangerous chicken 

At Sardi's Pollo A La Brasa, 430 N. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg, they're known for the hot rotisserie chicken, and inspectors say problem is, their cooler was hot too: more than 20 degrees hotter the maximum 41 degrees required by law.

Inspectors reported 21 pans of chicken stored at Sardi's in a potentially dangerous 65 degree refrigerator.

The manager took us downstairs at Sardi's, showing us they replaced a thermostat gauge and now their signature chicken is refrigerated in the safe zone at 40 degrees .

All the restaurants resolved the closure violations, passed re-inspection, and have reopened.

If you'd like to be alerted to restaurant closures in your neighborhood, follow @RussPtacek on Twitter, or like Russ Ptacek on Facebook.

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