Gator Grill: New Management, Old Problems UPDATED

Gator Grill's new owners Sal and Elsa DeVito have taken the grease out of the menu -- and off a few window panes as well.

At the end of June, the DeVito's took over the Homestead establishment after the Bronx-bred chef Nino took off. The couple changed the name of the restaurant to Gator Grill 192 and removed fried items from the menu to keep it healthier.

"We've cleaned it up and we're looking for our new clientele. I have great expectations for this," said Sal.

The restaurants windows and wood paneling were pressure cleaned to remove grease residue. "You couldn't see to the outside," Elsa added.

Yet, a look in health records shows that a July 14 inspection turned up 13 violations.

Ten were deemed "critical" - a classification that in some cases is an exaggeration. At Gator Grill, the violations included thawing potentially hazardous food in standing water, handling food and equipment without washing hands, touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands, and not displaying Food Manager Certification. Other violations range from lack of hair restraints to unwrapped utensils.

The place wasn't closed down and Beth Frady, deputy communications director at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, called the results "satisfactory," meaning they did not warrant a follow-up visit to ensure correction.

When we visited Gator Grill after the inspection, the DeVitos prepared a few plates of gator tacos, gator kabobs, and frog legs. Everything was grilled right in front of us. The plates were garnished with the DeVitos' signature grilled starfruit, and each dish incorporated pineapple in some way.

Their platanos maduros, Elsa's specialty, were perfectly cooked and topped with a delicious cilantro pineapple mayo. The meat seemed a little chewy, but that may have been due to the nature of the meat.

One customer during our visit did express concern the frog legs were undercooked. Sal insisted it was cooked just right, attributing the texture to the tenderness of the frog legs.

Despite repeated calls after our meal there, the DeVitos were unavailable for comment on the health report. While their food was unique and inventive, we hope they sort out their issues before we take another trip down south.

Update: According to Sal, the violations were minor and have been corrected. He says they have since taken the necessary food safety classes and the notations on the report were due to the fact that it was their first routine inspection. "If it comes down to it, they were very miscellaneous type things."

Gator Grill 192
36650 SW 192nd Ave., Homestead

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