ST. PETERSBURG, Florida— Longtime New Yorker Jim Malachowsky says after searching everywhere, he was thrilled to find Goodfella's and their authentic Sicilian pizza.
"You just can't find it down here," said Malachowsky holding a freshly ordered pizza from Goodfella's Pizzeria & Wings, 11002 4th St. N. "This is a good pizza."
And employees insist it's not just pizza that's good at the restaurant.
"We like to say the wings are the best in this area and they really, really are," said Goodfella's server Caitlin Sawyer.
But pizza and wings aren't the only things a state health inspector found in the kitchen. The restaurant was shut down as an emergency closure June 9 with 28 violations including soiled material on the slicer, live flies in the dish room, roach activity near the cook line and close to 50 rodent droppings under the reach-in cooler where the inspector also found 15 dead mice.
"That would be a big issue," said St. Pete resident Adam Harris. "I don't even know what to say to all that. That's a lot of violations right there."
The restaurant was also operating with an expired license according to state records. Goodfella's Pizza was allowed by the state to reopen the following day after correcting the most serious problems, so 10 News stopped in checking on conditions in the kitchen a week later.
"We tore the place apart," said Sawyer who claims after the state pointed out problems the entire staff got to work. "We just scrubbed, basically just got on our hands and knees. ... might as well have had tooth brushes and scrubbed everything."
Sawyer's boss allowed a television camera into the kitchen where a reporter found soap for employees to wash their hands but no paper towels at a hand sink in the kitchen, classified an intermediate violation. An employee quickly restocked the machine.
Inside the walk-in cooler, a reporter found food covered and up at least 6 inches off the floor, but there also was spot raw meat with boxes of chicken wings right above the eggplant risking possible cross contamination. There was also a produce problem, with a single moldy cucumber that was immediately thrown out.
The refrigeration thermometer read well below 42 degrees keeping cold foods cold. Most other items listed on the original inspection appeared to be corrected.
"You gotta take pride in what you do," said Sawyer. "When I go up to a table I can honestly say I have a lot of pride in working here."