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No hood, no food service: Italian restaurant closing after fire code requires equipment to handle grease fumes

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand Mama Rosina owners Tara Hanel, left, and daughter Shawnee Hondl stand at the back of their kitchen at the Italian restaurant in the T-Rex Plaza on Wednesday. The Dickinson business plans to close March 28 after required improvements have price them out.

Mama Rosina’s seems to be getting hit at all angles.

Dickinson’s only Italian restaurant will close March 28 unless they can find an empty location with a commercial kitchen and affordable rents.

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The mom-and-pop eatery opened up shop three years ago in the T-Rex Plaza as a soup-and-sandwich operation with seating in the hallway and a small kitchen in a store front.

“People will be devastated when they can’t get their alfredo fix on Tuesday and Friday,” said Tara Hanel, who owns Mama Rosina’s, along with her daughter, Shawnee Hondl. “We have a customer base now that’s incredible. I had a young girl come in this morning telling me, ‘Go on this site because they will help fund your restaurant.’ How sweet for a 16-year-old to say no, you can’t close.”

Since opening the menu has grown to include more Italian dishes like lasagna and alfredo.

“We are picking up business from the business that have come in” to the T-Rex Plaza, Hanel said. “To leave that — I would do it in a heartbeat, if we could afford the rent.”

The menu change has caused her kitchen requirements to evolve as well, Dickinson Fire Chief Bob Sivak said.

The fire code, which references the mechanical code followed by city inspectors, requires a type I hood, which has a built-in fire suppression system, over any stove that produces grease vapors, said Deb Barros, fire prevention specialist.

“She’s changed her menu, so now she’s cooking things that produce grease vapors,” Barros said. “There’s a new hazard there that didn’t exist before with the other type of menu she had when she started.”

The city code requires a type II hood, which sucks up steam and exhaust from cooking food, but does not have the grease fire suppression system.

“We treat them all the same,” said Ed Courton, Dickinson’s Community Development Director, who oversees the inspections department. “It boils down to a life/safety issue.”

Because the fire and building inspections have been so busy, it has been harder to make it to all locations as frequently as they would like, meaning infractions would have been caught sooner.

On top of those requirements, Mama Rosina’s needs to move as T-Rex Plaza doesn’t want the restaurant’s seating in the hall. There is a space in the T-Rex available where Simply Irresistible bakery was located, but it does not have a commercial hood either.

Because of all these new requirements, Hanel and Hondl have decided to close.

“If you’re renting an apartment or house in Dickinson, that’s one thing,” Hondl said. “Imagine being a business trying to rent something.”

If the business could find a new affordable location, Hanel and Hondl would love to keep it open, at least as a catering company.

“We would love to go into one of the new buildings that’s going to go up in the spring, but who can afford $3,000 to $3,500?” Hanel said. “There’s another place in town that is charging $10,000 (per month) for rent.”

Hanel worries that the commercial growth in Dickinson is pricing out small businesses like Mama Rosina’s.

“I’m all for big business,” Hanel said. “But don’t forget the roots of the small business that started Dickinson.”

Anyone with a Mama Rosina’s gift certificate is urged to use them before March 28. Mama Rosina’s is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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