Doino’s Pizzeria being sued by alleged Hepatitis victim

Doino's pizza prep area on October 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Doino's pizza prep area on October 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – A Cheektowaga man is bringing legal action against the Harlem Road pizzeria that was the subject of a Hepatitis A breakout last October.

James Brocato has filed a lawsuit in Erie County Supreme Court against Doino’s Pizzeria Bar and Grill at 2709 Harlem Road and an unnamed employee that allegedly spread the virus.  Mr. Brocato says he tested positive for the virus on September 30, 2018, after eating at the establishment.

He claims Doino’s was negligent and careless because they failed to train, educate and supervise their employees.  His claims against the unnamed employee say he acted negligently, carelessly, and recklessly because he prepared the tainted food when he had prior knowledge of his infectious disease.

Mr. Brocato says he sustained great emotional harm and injury, and his fear of having contracted Hepatitis Type A will continue.

Last fall, the Erie County officials said the pizzeria and bar was the site of a “minor breakout” of the virus.

“Three individuals who ate and consumed food from Doino’s were in all likelihood infected at the same time, and they all ate at the same time approximately,” said County Executive Mark Poloncarz in October.

An owner or manager was not available to speak to Cheektowaga Chronicle when we called the restaurant early Thursday morning, and we weren’t given a time when they would be back in to talk.

The Doino family welcomed Cheektowaga Chronicle into their establishment last fall a few hours after the county released the news.

Doino's kitchen on October 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Doino’s kitchen on October 1st. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

Owner Eileen Doino told us that she was “blown away” by the announcement.

“It’s terrible, and I can’t even tell you the words,” she said last fall.  “I put so much into this restaurant to make it great and to have something like this happen – it really hurts.”

The Doino’s invested a great deal of money to rehabilitate the former Peter K’s establishment.  They added a new walk-in cooler, a wrap around porch, and most importantly according to Ms. Doino, cleaned and sanitized the whole place.

“I’m such a clean fanatic, and I’m OCD.   I have the cleanest kitchen going,” added Ms. Doino.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. It is the most common type of hepatitis reported in the United States.  The Hepatitis A virus is usually spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of a person with hepatitis A. This type of transmission is called the “fecal-oral” route.

Ms. Doino at the time said she felt like she was between a rock and a hard place because the County Health Department couldn’t divulge too much information about the incident and it’s against the law to ask your employees about their health.

“I think [State Health Officials] should mandate the Hepatitis A shot and then everybody would have to have it, and no other restaurant would have to go through what we’re going through because it is devastating,” added Ms. Doino.  “From now on I would never hire a cook, or server, or bartender unless they had a Hepatitis A shot.”

Editorial Note: Doino’s Pizzeria Bar and Grill is one of a few pizza joints nearby my home.  As a neighbor and fellow small business owner, my family and I patronize them all – including Doino’s. 

The Doino Family has always supported our community.  One such example is by their support of the volunteer firefighters.  As a past president of the Pine Hill Drum and Bugle Corps, I saw this first hand when our organization purchased food for one of our monthly meetings.  Mr. Doino not only personally delivered the food, but he also gave us a generous break on the bill and provided extra food on top of it all.  

It’s so easy to be a news reporter that drives into town, does another story on how an Erie County restaurant is giving people Hepatitis, and then leaves after the six-o’clock TV live shot is complete. I was a TV news employee for ten years; I’ve been there.  I’m not faulting them; the story needed to be told, and I, like them reported it.

It’s another matter altogether when you live and report on your community because you see the after effects first hand.  If there is such a thing called the “drive-by media” – we’re not it.

I don’t know the Doino’s personally.  I only see Mr. Doino in passing when he’s delivering food to my house or a community event like National Night Out at Town Park. I’ve never met Eileen until Erie County released the breakout information and I haven’t spoken to her since.

Following the news, The Doino Family said they had taken steps to safeguard their employees and customers against any further Hepatitis breakouts.  They allowed me to see their kitchen and food prep areas while I was reporting the story last October. 

With ten years of journalism experience, I’ve been in some kitchens at WNY’s favorite restaurants, and I refuse to take my family there because I know what happens “behind the curtain.”

Journalists are supposed to be objective – tell the facts and allow the reader to make up your mind.  I think the Cheektowaga Chronicle is pretty damn good about that; in fact, I think this is the first time my opinion has made an appearance in this publication.

You read the facts above and can make your own decision to eat there or not.  This portion of the webpage is in italics because it’s my opinion – and you all know what they say about opinions – but here it is anyways.

After seeing The Doino’s kitchen, after speaking to them and hearing their story on how they’re just trying to build up their part of Cheektowaga, I’m comfortable supporting and more importantly – eating food – from Doino’s Pizzeria Bar and Grill.

Jim Herr
Cheektowaga Chronicle


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