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South Florida diners look for safe ways to eat out

Tequesta cook Erik Pettersen offers enhanced safety measures at his restaurant
Posted at 9:50 AM, Jul 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 09:51:02-04

TEQUESTA, Fla.  — Paul Castellano is just starting to get comfortable with dining out. He tested the waters at a few places.

"Initially, absolutely, I was just carryout only," he said. "Some of the staff didn't have masks on, or even in others, where, you know, the silverware was absolutely filthy. So, to be quite honest with you, I didn't want to go out anywhere."

Now, Castellano has landed on some tried and true spots.

Castellano is not alone. Some diners are taking extra precautions, by bringing their own pens, silverware or even wine.

"If that's going to make them feel comfortable in my restaurant, bringing a cup from home or their favorite mug or their favorite plate, I embrace it," chef Erik Pettersen, a certified food safety manager accredited by the state, told WPTV.

Erik Pettersen, Evo Italian cook and owner talks about restaurant safety during coronavirus
"If that's going to make them feel comfortable in my restaurant, bringing a cup from home or their favorite mug or their favorite plate, I embrace it," Evo Italian cook and owner Erik Pettersen says.

Pettersen is a cook and owner of EVO Italian in Tequesta. He's also able to certify staff.

"That's just for handling of food, handling of customers and sanitary," he said.

Pettersen is now trying to tackle COVID-19.

"My only job right now is to make people feel as comfortable as possible," he said.

Pettersen said that includes social distancing, masks for all, gloves, a sanitation station for curbside takeout and a check-in spot to control the flow.

"It's the start of our safety process," he said.

Pettersen pointed to one-time-use paper menus and digital menus, where you scan a code to pull it up on your phone. He's even giving customers a fresh, boxed pen to sign the check.

Reserved sign at table at Evo Italian in Tequesta
Restaurants like Evo Italian in Tequesta are taking extra measures to make sure their customers feel comfortable about dining.

"Sometimes it's the little things we overlook, just like a pen," he said.

Pettersen warns not to let your guard down about non-coronavirus-related issues, saying restaurants are overloaded trying to keep up right now.

"If you're open only three days a week, how are you getting fresh food?" he asked. "You don't want restaurants to forget about their primary goal, which was before COVID, making sure we don't poison people, handle things properly, cross contaminate."

Pettersen also said if you see something out of place, you should ask.

"This is your health on the line," he said.