ASBURY PARK – It’s the worm seen ‘round the world.
And now the restaurant has posted a message to its customers, and those visiting to keep up with the drama around a worm being found in a cod dish this past weekend.
“Stella Marina is dedicated to ensuring that our guests enjoy a safe and delicious experience. For the past ten years, we have proudly served thousands of customers without incident until this past weekend and for that, we apologize,” Joe Cetrulo, owner of Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant in Asbury Park said in an afternoon Facebook post July 31. “Out of an abundance of caution, cod has since been removed from our menu. The safety and happiness of our guests is our highest priority and we are proactively working to further guarantee our kitchen maintains the rigorous standards we are known for.”
Middletown resident Jim Guinee posted a video twice, once at 7:21 p.m. July 28 and again at 9:49 p.m. that same night, showing a parasitic worm squirming in what was identified as a cod dish.
“Happy 80th Birthday dinner to Aunt Dot and sorry to Jen about the surprise guest in your fish. #stellamarina #stellamarinanj #asburypark #asburyboardwalk #trinityhospitalitygroup #parasites #wormsinthefood #donteatthefish,” his first post said. He tagged the restaurant in his second post.
The restaurant, in an earlier statement, said staff immediately stopped serving cod after the worms were found, and “also compensated the family of eight generously and expressed our sincere concern and apologies that one our guests had anything less than an amazing experience at our restaurant.”
According to Christopher Merkel of the Monmouth County Health Department, Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant had its last inspection March 1, in which it received a “satisfactory” rating. A satisfactory rating is the highest state law allows, meaning “the establishment is found to be operating in substantial compliance with this chapter and food service personnel have demonstrated that they are aware of and are practicing sanitation and food safety principles as outlined in this chapter.”
Merkel said an Open Public Records Act request would have to be filed with the county for inspections going back further than this year’s.
He said that while formal complaints haven’t been filed with his department about Stella Marina, he and his staff do watch social media for complaints about local eateries and may launch a formal investigation based on those observations.
Jersey Shore Online reached out to Guinee via social media and asked if he planned to file a formal complaint with the health department. He was also asked if he posted his videos before or after he spoke with restaurant staff.
Worms are not uncommon in fish, especially cod. They pose no threat if the fish is thoroughly cooked, or if the fillet is frozen at -5 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 24 hours, according to one cooking website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that depending on the parasite ingested, symptoms of infection include diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms; “abdominal pain, diarrhea, muscle pain, cough, skin lesions, malnutrition, weight loss, neurological and many other symptoms depending on the particular organism and burden of infection.”
Treatments are available for most such infections.
Guinee’s social media posts did not indicate whether he believed his girlfriend Jennifer Morzano had ingested a worm.
News organization from as far away as the United Kingdom were contacting Guinee via social media Tuesday afternoon, asking to share his video on their news channels.