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Poor Health Grades Hidden by Some Greenwich Village Restaurants

By Andrea Swalec | August 15, 2011 6:34am | Updated on August 15, 2011 3:17pm
Famous Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village's  C grade was nearly impossible to read when DNAinfo spotted it on Aug. 10. A day later it was inspected again and earned a B grade.
Famous Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village's C grade was nearly impossible to read when DNAinfo spotted it on Aug. 10. A day later it was inspected again and earned a B grade.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

GREENWICH VILLAGE — More than a year after the city first required restaurants to post Health Department inspection grades, some owners of Greenwich Village eateries are doing their best to hide less than perfect ratings. 

Famous Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village racked up 54 violation points in a June 7 health inspection, but its posted C grade — the lowest mark a restaurant can get without being shut down — was nearly impossible to see when DNAinfo looked for it last week.

Only a pale outline of a C, which is usually bright gold, was visible at the Sixth Avenue pizzeria, at 11th Street. 

"Why does it matter?" a Famous Ray's manager who would not identify himself said by phone when DNAinfo called to ask why the sign wasn't clearer. 

Health Department rules require grade signs to be posted "on a front window, door or outside wall where it is easily seen by people passing by." The card must be placed within five feet of the entrance, from four to six feet off the ground. 

The pizza joint was inspected again Aug. 11 and received 26 violation points — which earns it a B grade.

However, its offenses include "evidence of mice or live mice present in facility's food and/or non-food areas," according to city Health Department restaurant inspection data. 

At the Subway sandwich shop at 315 Sixth Avenue, DNAinfo noticed on Aug. 8 that its C grade was posted on an easy-to-miss side window, between bright promotional signs. 

Subway moved the sign to the shop's door after a reporter pointed out its placement. 

"We have moved it. Thanks for letting us know," manager Mohammed Mazar said when asked to comment on the sign. 

The sandwich shop was cited for evidence of mice, improper sanitation of food preparation surfaces and not keeping cold foods cold enough, records show.

Around the corner, Brazilian restaurant berimbau had its B grade posted about a foot off the ground — violating the easily visible rule.

But manager Mario Espindola didn't seem to think there was an issue. 

"You have to post it, so we posted it," he said.

Inspectors found evidence of mice and unsanitary wiping cloths at berimbau. 

A few doors down, sandwich shop The Grey Dog had its B grade posted on a folding glass door, more than 10 feet away from the entrance. Inspectors found evidence of mice there, too. 

Co-owner Peter Adrian said he thought he had been following the rules. 

"I think it's pretty conspicuous," he said. "We have been inspected since [we posted it] and they haven't commented on it."

The Health Department has issued 123 violations to restaurants that did not place grade signs in the required locations, according to a department report on the first year of the grading system

Rule-breakers can be fined as much as $1,000 for a first offense and greater fines for repeat offenses, a Department of Health spokeswoman said.

Nearly 90 percent of New Yorkers surveyed in July by Baruch College said they considered restaurant grades when deciding where to eat. 

Complaints about restaurants can be reported by calling 311.