ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - KRQE News 13 has learned the number of restaurants flunking their health inspections is going down in 2016.
Red or green stickers in the front of a restaurant can often help make or break business. Lately, fewer and fewer places are getting red-tagged in Albuquerque.
At Mario's Pizzeria in Albuquerque, customers will notice pizza-making is a family affair.
"You got all three generations here," said Eddy Burgarello, Owner of Mario's Pizzeria.
Eddy's 82-year-old Sicilian dad, Mario, opened up shop with his wife in 1986. Eddy's daughter works at the restaurant too.
"This restaurant means everything to our family," said Burgarello. "My parents work every day still, we work every day, my children work, my niece and nephews work."
But it's not just good food that a good restaurant has to worry about. The Burgarellos said they work hard to keep everything clean, and to keep their green sticker in the window, issued by the city's Environmental Health Department.
"We're constantly temping our hot food and looking at our thermometers in our refrigerators," Burgarello explained. On top of keeping up with food safety, Burgarello said they also make sure their four facilities in Albuquerque are always clean.
It turns out this year, fewer restaurants in Albuquerque are getting the dreaded red-tag, which is a good thing.
"If that red sticker is up there, that's a warning sign that they've missed the mark on enough things that we're concerned about," explained Mark DiMenna, Deputy Director for the City of Albuquerque's Environmental Health Department.
According to the city's data, in 2013, 144 businesses failed health inspections.
DiMenna said part of that was due to restaurants not paying fees in previous years. However, there can be other problems.
Health inspectors make surprise visits to restaurants and make sure everyone is up to code.
"Everything from the temperatures the food is being held at, the way it's being handled," DiMenna explained.
So far in 2016, there are only 21 places with red tags in Albuquerque. That's out of thousands.
Mayor Richard J. Berry attributes the shift in part to health inspectors working more with restaurants.
"Help them succeed while you're keeping people safe, and I think that's starting to show," Mayor Berry explained.
At Mario's they're proud of their red and green particularly when it comes to their pies.
"We're in New Mexico, pepperoni and green chile - that's the best!" Mario laughed.
Eddy Burgarello said Mario's Pizza has taken health safety an extra step. They send a manager to conduct their own weekly inspections at each of their four restaurants in town to make sure everything's up to code.
The Environmental Health Department does surprise inspections at least twice a year. For those interested in checking out how someone fared, the city posts results of these inspections online.
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