Truck drivers Ron Baker and Craig Dawson have been eating at Brocato's Sandwich Shop on 5021 East Columbus Drive in Tampa for 40 years.
"It's good?" asked ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan. "Oh yeah, definitely good. The Cuban sandwiches are great! They really know how to fix a Cuban," Craig said.
Ron orders the devil crabs.
"Why do you like them?" Ryan asked.
"I guess because they got real crab meat inside of them," Ron explained.
But state inspectors had a different opinion of Brocato's, writing up 226 violations in less than a year from February 2015 to January 2016 and needing to return 12 times for follow up inspections due to repeat violations.
So Ryan talked to the man in charge, Michael Brocato.
"You've had quite a list of administrative complaints, follow up inspections, stop sales, and temperature issues," Ryan said when she met Brocato.
Brocato explained that he works hard 24-7 along with other family members, who have owned Brocato's since 1948.
"You've had a lot of temperature issues, too," Ryan mentioned.
"And we've corrected all of them," Brocato answered.
Those temperature violations were so severe in October that inspectors issued a stop sale on 10 pounds of Spanish bean soup, 10 pounds of cooked green beans, and 10 pounds of black beans because they were improperly cooled and at dangerous temperatures.
The state also finding over a dozen other items in the cooler at temperatures that could make you sick. They include cut tomatoes at 52 degrees, butter at 70 degrees, cut lettuce at 57 degrees, cheese at 46 degrees, breaded chicken at 44 degrees, sofrita at 46 degrees, chorizo at 47 degrees, cooked pork at 46 degrees, and crab meat at 47 degrees.
All cold food should be 41 degrees or below.
"If you're not following the food code law, and you're not keeping the food at the proper temperature, and they're issuing administrative complaints, that's a big concern for the public, don't you think?" Ryan asked Brocato.
"It's a big concern for the public but we've done all of our issues with that," Brocato said.
Brocato explained that the state has taken issue with the renovations he's been doing over the last year with inspectors not approving the expansion of his business. And this has resulted in multiple warnings and administrative complaints.
Inspectors wrote up sinks being used outside and food being prepared outside, open to the elements, a repeat violation. But Brocato said he's working on enclosing the new area, which takes time and money, so he's been missing inspector's deadlines.
Brocato also brought Ryan inside the kitchen to prove he has nothing to hide. He went on to say that he tries to fix every violation the moment it's written up. Other violations documented just last month include accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior of the ice machine, food prepared onsite and held more than 24 hours not properly date marked, and floors not maintained smooth and durable.
Inspectors saw bare wood in the outside kitchen, unsealed concrete in the walk in cooler, floor tiles cracked, broken or in disrepair, and unsealed concrete outside the dish area. In 2015, the state fined Brocato's $700 for violations not corrected and in 2014 fines accumulated to $1,500.
But the truckers will be trucking back for lunch soon.
"Just the temperature of the food always better than some of the other things that you hear that's going on with the food," Craig explained.
"But you'd come back?" Ryan asked Ron.
"Oh yeah," he said.
BROCATO'S SANDWICH SHOP STATEMENT:
We, the owners and staff, of Brocato's Sandwich Shop, strive to do the best job we possibly can to serve our customers. We acknowledge the fact that there have been administrative complaints filed against us. Most of those complaints were corrected on sight, with an inspector present. However, some corrections take a longer time to process, therefore, not all complaints have been rectified. Some of these administrative complaints are due to the fact that we have a building that we have worked out of since 1948. As the business has grown over the past 68 years, we have had to make improvements and changes to meet current codes. These corrections have proven to be costly and timely. We are doing everything possible to work with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. We appreciate the hard work and effort that these inspectors do every day and their assistance in helping us to meet all inspection codes. Through the years, we have always had an open door/open kitchen policy. Customers can see the kitchen and watch their food being prepared, while they wait for their order. As always, we will continue to provide the best product for our customers, as we correct these administrative complaints. Michael Brocato Brocato's Sandwich Shop Owner