Restaurant bites back after being hit with food-hygiene fine

FINE DINING -- the pleasant interior of the Piccolo restaurant.
FINE DINING -- the pleasant interior of the Piccolo restaurant.

THE OWNER of a restaurant in Hucknall has spoken out to reassure his customers after being hit with a hefty fine for breaching food-hygiene laws.

Puyan Monajemi is the man behind the Piccolo Italian eaterie on Farleys Lane.

Piccolo storage tray

Piccolo storage tray

He has been running the business with a clean bill of health since 2001.

But in a case brought by Ashfield District Council, he was forced to appear at Nottingham Magistrates Court where he was found guilty of nine offences, committed last year.

The 46-year-old, of Hucknall, denied all charges but was convicted.

The offences include failing to ensure food was protected against contamination. He was also found guilty of failing to keep the premises clean and maintained. This was after council officers found that shelves and refrigeration units were dirty and seals to fridges were split and mouldy.

Other charges related to kitchen equipment found to be dirty. This included a cheese grater, food-probe thermometer and chopping boards.

Mr Monajemi was ordered by the court to pay a fine totalling £1,000, plus court costs of £1,435 and a victim surcharge of £15.

But now he has spoken exclusively to the Dispatch to launch a public fightback.

“We have served thousands of customers and all have been happy with our food and service,” said Mr Monajemi, who has 30 years of experience in the food industry and previously ran the Pizza Bella takeaway on High Street.

“We have an open kitchen that the diners can see, and we are always clean. I have a good reputation and people know me. There is no risk at all to our diners.”

The prosecution was brought by Ashfield Council after a routine inspection of Piccolo in March last year. Mr Monajemi was in his native Iran at the time because of a death in the family.

Council officers made a follow-up visit in June when they said they were not satisfied that improvements had been made. Again, Mr Monajemi was in Iran.

The restaurant-owner has rubbished claims that procedures to keep track of cleaning and hygiene were not in place and that staff had not passed adequate food and hygiene training. He produced documents to support this in court.

The restaurant was launched in 2001 as Leonardo’s. Its name was changed to Piccolo as part of a facelift in 2008.

Mr Monajemi says that previous hygiene reviews were glowing. So much so that inspections were reduced to every 18 months instead of annually.

He also says that once the concerns by inspectors had been identified, improvements were made.

However the council claims Mr Monajemi was called into its offices several times to discuss the offences but he failed to co-operate.

Coun Warren Nuttall (Lab), the council’s lead member for public health, said the authority would “not tolerate businesses that put people’s health at risk.”