LOWER EAST SIDE — Some Manhattanites refuse to let bad health inspection grades get between them and their favorite restaurants.
After two years of earning a perfect score, Nonna’s L.E.S Pizza at Clinton and Delancey streets on the Lower East Side received a "C" grade in September after racking up 45 violations. But since posting the glaring "C" in its window, the store's committed regulars haven’t seemed to care.
“I grew up in the Third World, so I was eating off something that made a taco cart look like fine dining,” said Sam Heesen, a 23-year-old Lower East Side resident. “So I really don’t give a s---.”
Heesen, who is the son of a diplomat and lived in India and Mexico as a child, comes in to Nonna’s Pizzeria for most of the meals he eats out. The chicken, arugula and pepper toppings have won his heart.
The "C" grade came as a huge surprise to daytime manager Steve Yadlosky. He wasn’t working the day of the inspection, but came in to find the store turned upside down with a health inspector investigating every corner.
“The temperatures were off by really minute degrees,” Yadlosky said of the refrigerator violation that was one of six listed on the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website.
“It was five or six degrees over, but it was enough to score bad points,” he said.
The day of the surprise inspection, Nonna’s refrigerator had broken down, leading to the higher-than-allowed temperature, according to Yadlosky.
Other violations listed for Nonna’s Pizzeria included improperly storing utensils and keeping hot food below 140 degrees.
Under the restaurant grading system the city introduced in July 2010, establishments with 28 or more violation points receive a "C" grade — the city's lowest mark.
But Yadlosky hasn't noticed a drop in business since being branded with the grade.
"It seems normal,” said Yadlosky, noting that regulars are still coming. However, he was concerned about those who don’t know the eatery, its staff or the food.
"I have obviously seen people walk pass that I don’t recognize, they walk in and then their eyes focus on the 'C,'" he said.
Yadlosky said he wants to chase them down and show then Nonna’s clean kitchen.
Miguel Rodriguez, a 45-year-old storeowner from the neighborhood, had no issue with the grade.
"I love the food here — very healthy, very clean," he said. "I am their No. 1 customer."