MANHATTAN — The proprietor of Nino's on the Upper East Side can often be found in a natty pinstripe suit greeting people as they splurge on lobster fra diavolo or veal scaloppini.
But Nino Selimaj was nowhere to be found on Wednesday when DNAinfo called to discuss the restaurant's Department of Health restaurant inspection score — the second worst in the 10021 zip code.
The celeb-heavy hangout at 1354 First Ave., near East 73rd Street, was hit with a whopping 56 points during an inspection on Monday, according to the health department's website.
A grade higher than 27 points would merit hanging a C in the window, but the restaurant's grade is pending as the department gives it some time to clean up their act. Restaurants with violations under 13 points get As.
Nino's, a white tablecloth joint that's very popular with Upper East Siders, also seems to have a spotty record. After scoring 21 points in January, it then racked up 37 points in a follow-up inspection a month later. But the month after that it scored an A-worthy 7 points.
"The Health Department may continue to inspect the restaurant roughly once a month until it scores below 28 or the department closes it for serious and persistent violations," according to the department.
The 56-point score came on the heels of a July 29 inspection where Nino's had scored 31 points, as first mentioned in a tweet by UpperEast.com, a website of Upper East Side business listings.
The health department found a range of violations, including evidence of rats and mice, roaches present in the food or non food areas, flies, cold food not stored properly and food surfaces improperly washed. Also, the inspector found the supervisor of food operations did not hold a Food Protection Certificate, which is required by the health department.
According to the Nino's website, at any of Selimaj's several restaurants you can find famous people. Recent diners have included Hilary Duff, Tony Bennett, Clint Eastwood, Regis Philbin, Chelsea Clinton and members of "The Sopranos," it said. Selimaj himself attracted attention when he introduced a $1,000 pizza topped with six different types of caviar and Maine Lobster.
At Nino's Positano in Midtown, Selimaj named a chicken special after regular customer Derek Jeter, after the Yankees shortstop reached his 3,000th hit. That restaurant, at 890 Second Ave., was briefly closed by the health department after a June 22 inspection tallied 72 violation points. The restaurant currently has a letter B grade.
His restaurant Osso Buco, at 1662 Third Ave. at 93rd Street, has a grade pending after a July inspection found 24 violation points, according to the Health Department, as does Scarpina, which scored 20 points. And while the health department site states that Nino's Tuscany Steak House currently has an A, on its most recent inspection on Aug. 15, the restaurant scored 26 points.
"For now, I'm not at liberty to discuss [the restaurant score] until it is resolved," a woman answering the phone at Nino's remarked, saying that the owner was the only one authorized to talk.
Selimaj, however, didn't return calls.