Town shuts Cafe Al Dente over code violations

An Oct. 10, 2013 photo of the Cafe An Oct. 10, 2013 photo of the Cafe Al Dente, which has been shut by the Town of Oyster Bay after 20 years of operation. The town is citing multiple building code violations. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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The Town of Oyster Bay has shut an Italian-American restaurant that has operated in Oyster Bay hamlet for two decades, saying the owner failed to resolve building code violations for a year and a half.

Phil Morizio, owner-chef of Cafe Al Dente, across the street from town hall, contends he's being harassed by the town despite making changes demanded by Oyster Bay building inspectors and the county fire marshal's office.

Building inspectors padlocked the 36-seat restaurant at 2 Spring St. on Sept. 16, the same day Morizio went to court to answer the town's summonses. While waiting for his next court date on Nov. 18, the Northport resident has laid off his 14 employees but is still paying rent, insurance and other costs. "I cannot support my family," he said.

The town says it shuts a restaurant usually less than once a year -- and only after a long period of seeking compliance first.

Town planning Commissioner Fred Ippolito said after a May 22, 2012, inspection, summonses were issued for interior alterations and placement of signs without a permit, no certificate of occupancy, no public assembly license, no handicapped-accessible bathrooms and construction of an awning that was not fire-rated.

Ippolito said the town gave Morizio time to hire an architect and apply for the permits, which he did before pleading guilty and paying fines in June.

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Subsequently, the town was notified by the Nassau County Board of Health that its inspectors had cited violations, including presence of insects and rodents, inadequate toilet facilities and dirty surfaces.

Ippolito said town inspectors on Aug. 13 found exposed and noncode-compliant electrical work, improper entrance and exit, improper venting, illegal plumbing, and holes in the fire-rated kitchen walls. Summonses were issued for interior alterations and construction of a rear canopy, basement food preparation area and bathrooms without a permit, plumbing without a permit, no certificate of occupancy, no certificate of plumbing approval, no electrical certificate of approval, no public assembly license and dangerous conditions.

A follow-up inspection Sept. 11 "found that all but one of the violations still existed," the commissioner said. He said Morizio "was notified that the restaurant would be closed and was given ample opportunity to enter and remove any items before the securing of the premises."

"There were a few violations, mostly spurious," Morizio insists.

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