Orange Park, FL

Restaurant inspections: Orange Park restaurant temporarily closed after ‘vermin’ infestation found

Don Johnson

Sorbello’s Sicilian Restaurant,195 Blanding Blvd. in Orange Park, was temporarily closed by state inspectors on August 2 due to “infestations of vermin” found at the restaurant, according to an email from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which conducts restaurant inspections.

“The establishment was authorized to reopen on August 4, 2022 after it was determined that the issues were abated and the affected areas were properly cleaned and sanitized,” the email said.

It was the second temporary closure for Sorbello’s. The restaurant was temporarily closed in May after inspectors found violations on May 5, including rodent droppings. A follow-up inspection on May 6 found two violations, including a dead rodent under the pizza oven.

Rodent activity found during inspections are considered high priority violations – the most severe.

In May, state regulators gave this explanation in an email to Newsbreak:

“Evidence of vermin activity was observed at Sorbello’s during an unannounced routine inspection by DBPR’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants on May 5, 2022 and an emergency order of closure was issued. The violations that warranted the emergency closure were observed not complied on subsequent visits on May 6 and May 9 and the closure was extended. The Division will continue to monitor Sorbello’s compliance with Florida’s sanitation and safety laws and will visit as often as needed to achieve compliance. When all conditions that warranted the emergency closure are complied, the Division will issue a vacate of the emergency closure.”

The restaurant reopened on May 10, according to inspection reports.

State inspectors were back at the restaurant on August 2 and found 17 violations, including rodent droppings.

Inspectors found six rodent droppings at the end of the cook line near the reach-in freezer, 12 behind a reach-in cooler (not in use) at the kitchen entrance, four under a prep table near the kitchen entrance to the back room storage area, a rodent dropping between the prep tables opposite the cook line, one rodent dropping behind the left fryer on the cook line, another left of the stove top range on the cook line and about 13 droppings in other areas.

The inspection report said the operator discarded the droppings during the inspection.

The inspection report also cited roach activity present with live roaches found. A state inspector found 10 live roaches under the right side of the dish machine in the corner near the back door. One live roach was observed on the wall to the right of the entrance to server alley from the dining room. The operator discarded the live roaches during the inspection, the report said.

More rodent droppings were found in the August 3 inspection and in the August 4 inspection three droppings were found on a lower shelf in the mixer area. The operator cleaned and sanitized the shelf, the report said.

Sorbello’s received a $400 fine in July from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for the violations found during the May inspections, according to the department email to Newsbreak.

“The most recent fine levied against this food service establishment resulted from an administrative complaint related to the Emergency Order of Closure that was issued on May 5, 2022. This administrative complaint case has been settled and is closed,” the department email said.

“The most recent closure on August 2, 2022 may result in an additional administrative complaint. This is currently under review,” the email said.

In a call to Sorbello’s on Wednesday, a woman who identified herself as the manager said the inspectors “found some old stuff and they were very picky about it.”

“They are very strict,” she added.

She ended the interview by saying that the restaurant had been in business for 28 years. “This has never happened to us before,” she said.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation says that each inspection report is a "snapshot" of conditions present at the time of the inspection. On any given day, an establishment may have fewer or more violations than noted in their most recent inspection. Inspections conducted on any given day may not be representative of the overall, long-term conditions at the establishment, according to the department. Because conditions can change rapidly, establishments are not graded or rated.

To read state restaurant inspection reports on your favorite place to eat, click here. Jacksonville.com also provides a database on state inspection reports of area restaurants. To access the database, click here.

To keep up to date with Clay County news, download the free Newsbreak app from the app store.

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Orange Park restaurant closed by state inspectors(Photo by Johnny Louis/Getty Images)

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Veteran journalist with experience in website and newspaper content as an editor and writer. I have worked as a reporter at newspapers and websites in Florida, California and Arkansas. I am a former executive editor at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and worked for 12 years at The Tampa Tribune as an enterprise editor and business editor. At Patch.com, I produced stories for 24 websites in the Tampa Bay area and also edited content for websites in six states.

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