CLEARWATER, Florida -- Panda Lover is a restaurant with mediocre reviews.
"It's okay ... it's not the best Chinese food I've had," said occasional customer Vinny Billotta. But even Billotta said he's shocked to find out what the state uncovered.
On April 15, an inspector documented 16 violations, four considered high priority. Among the issues: a hand washing sink not accessible for employees to use; equipment and utensils not properly washed and sanitized; and lots of roaches, both dead and alive, found inside the cover of the reach-in cooler, under the woks, on shelves above the prep table, in the food crawling out of a container of cabbage, and inside a box of plastic wrap.
"If you're talking about stuff on the wrap, because that goes on the food after the fact, that's probably not a good thing," said a disgusted Billotta.
Things were so bad the restaurant was shut down as an emergency closure for three days in April.
"They were closed, and the orange sticker meant the health department was there," said Jackie Torrens, who works next door and saw the state's bright orange warning signs.
So last week, we stopped in trying to find out what was going on inside Panda Lover's kitchen. We asked the owner what had been done to address the issues, and we were quickly made to feel very unwelcome.
"No, that's okay. We don't want to do it right now," said the owner when asked if he'd be willing to show us the kitchen.
We asked again for permission to take a look behind the counter, and the owner became agitated.
"No, no, no, no, no, no ... forget it," he yelled.
The owner told us to go away, seemingly unconcerned about what others think of his restaurant. When asked what he wanted us to tell customers about his previous inspection, the owner shouted, "Whatever you tell them, it's okay!"
And while we couldn't check out the kitchen, we could see plenty, even through the front window, where we found several dead insects in the front dining room.
"The front door is always open, the back door is always open, there's cats always out back," said Billotta. "It's just a sign to me, I just don't think I should go there."
Panda Lover is scheduled for a follow-up inspection in the coming weeks. 10 News will keep an eye on this restaurant's future inspections and let you know how they perform.
If you have a restaurant you'd like us to check out e-mail 10 News reporter Beau Zimmer at RedAlert@wtsp.com
You can also look up restaurants near you on your desktop or mobile device by visiting www.restaurants.wtsp.com.