Forlini’s, the storied red sauce restaurant at 93 Baxter Street, near Walker Street, officially closed as of March 31 with largely no notice to its legion of fans and longtime customers. In an interview early last week, Forlini’s co-owner Joe Forlini told Eater he was thinking of closing down after Easter Sunday, pending a decision from the building’s new, undisclosed owners. However, a few hours after news broke that one of NYC’s most iconic Italian joints was closing, word circulated that the restaurant was officially shutdown, effective immediately. By April 1, the restaurant had posted on Instagram that the closure was permanent.
At the time, Forlini would not share why the seven decades-old restaurant suddenly called it quits after Eater’s initial reporting on the 91-93 Baxter building’s sale. However, there was a yellow sign affixed to the front door from the Department of Health stating that the restaurant had been shutdown by the city, signed March 30, the same day the restaurant held its final service.
A look at the DOH website reveals that as of the March 30 inspection, the restaurant racked up violations which included “evidence of rats or live rats present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas,” “live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas,” and “evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.”
According to city policies, violations that can’t be corrected before the inspection finishes are considered a “public heath hazard,” allowing the department to shut down a venue until the situation is remedied.
Inspections that result in a score of higher than 14 points are not given a letter grade (on March 30, Forlini’s had 45 points listed online). DOH policy also states that inspectors have the ability to check in on a restaurant until it scores again below 28.
Forlini did not respond by the time of publication when asked whether the DOH violations factored into the restaurant’s decision to close sooner than initially planned last week.
The Chinatown spot has been hit with other violations in the past, including issues common at many restaurants, such as temperature control management and the evidence of vermin, according to a past report.
Over the years, several high profile restaurants have been forced to temporarily shutter due to health department violations, such as Cronut bakery Dominque Ansel, pizza icon Di Fara, Irish pub McSorley’s, and Jewish institution Barney Greengrass.
Health department inspections went on hiatus during the pandemic; at the time, advocates hoped it would be a chance to revamp the “broken system.”
No matter whether Forlini’s would have held out for a few more weeks without the DOH shutdown, Forlini told Eater at the time that the reason for the sale of both the restaurant at building that houses it on Baxter Street was simply related to his and his cousin and co-owner Derek Forlini’s old age. It’s still unclear who bought Forlini’s.