by Joseph Cole
Over at Oregano Joe’s on Boston Post Road, the lights are off and the savory scent of freshly baked pizza is absent from the air. There are, however, a couple of signs on the door.
One is a simple printed and laminated sign proclaiming the business is closed due to some mechanical repairs.
The other, is a signed and dated notice from the Orange Department of Health declaring the business is closed until further notice.
The question is, why are Oregano Joe’s doors closed? And it is a question no one seems to want to answer.
Brian Slugowski, Sanitarian for the Town of Orange and whose order the business was closed under, isn’t talking. According to Slugowski, there is an open investigation and for the time being the town health department will not comment directly about anything related to Oregano Joe’s.
Nor will the First Selectman’s office for the same reasons.
Dr. Josseph Zelson, Director of the Town of Orange Health Department, echoed Slugowski’s comments. Zelson’s signature is on the notice posted on Oregano Joe’s door.
Christopher Stan, with the Connecticut Department of Public Health wanted to help but had no specific information and suggested calling the town sanitarian. When he heard Slugowski wasn’t offering comment due to a possible investigation, Stan suggested there might be precedent for withholding under circumstances.
The owners of the business aren’t talking either. In fact, neither Joe nor Sam DeVellis returned calls regarding the location. The brothers opened the pizza restaurant together in August of 2012. Messages were left at Oregano Joe’s, Giove’s Pizza Kitchen in Shelton and Carl Anthony Trattoria in Monroe.
None were returned.
A visit to Joe Devellis’s Shelton home also failed to get a response. Workmen in the driveway at the home were themselves wondering where DeVellis was as he should have been there to give them access to the house. A note was left in DeVellis’s mailbox requesting he call The Orange Times. No call was received.
Employee’s at his Giove’s Pizza Kitchen business, claimed not to know where he was and said he seldom is in that location.
So why is Oregano Joe’s closed? Perhaps the Orange Police Department has the answer.
A police report filed the day after the closure states that the health department shutdown the location due to “multiple confirmed cases of salmonella poisoning.”
According to the report, Joe DeVellis requested the Orange Police escort him back into the business on June 21, the day after the closure, to shut off the automatic start-up timer on the pizza oven.
While he was there, according to the report, DeVellis left an outgoing message stating the business was closed due to a kitchen fire. When questioned by the officer, the report states DeVellis replied that “it was none of anyone’s business about the salmonella contamination, and he chose that excuse to quell customers’ questions.”
A call from The Orange Times to Oregano Joe’s weeks later, found the outgoing message was recorded by a female and made no mention of why the restaurant was closed. It mentioned only that they were working to reopen as quickly as possible.
When DeVellis left the location on June 21, the officer reported that the back door was left open and DeVellis had to be called back to lock it. DeVellis claimed to not know the back door required a deadbolt to be latched according to the report.
DeVellis also allegedly told officers all of the gas items in the kitchen were turned off. On suspicion, officer’s later requested the Orange Volunteer Fire Department investigate. The OVFD allegedly found several items still connected to active gas lines which they turned off. The officer also reported that the automatic pizza oven turned on while the OVFD inspected the restaurant, despite DeVellis’s claim he needed access to the building to turn it off in the first place.
The report stated that Fire Marshall Tim Smith discovered a fire alarm was missing since his last inspection.
While the report states salmonella as the cause for the shutdown, it should be noted all of the information in the report may not be entirely correct and all claims are alleged.
For example, the report also includes a home phone number for Joe DeVellis that bears a Wallingford exchange prefix. The woman answering the phone, twice, claimed it is a wrong number.
She offered no other comment.
Check online at www.theorangetimes.com for story updates.