Carnegie Deli reopens after a 10-month shutdown

NEW YORK — Ten months after being caught stealing gas for cooking, the Carnegie Deli, renowned for its massive meat sandwiches named for famous New Yorkers, reopened on Tuesday morning.

By midday, customers were again filing into the 79-year-old restaurant on Seventh Avenue to order pastrami, corned beef and cheesecake. But Kurt Benjamin had them beat.

Benjamin, an investor from Los Angeles, had been one of the first people through the doors when the restaurant opened at about 8:45 a.m., said Cristyne Nicholas, a spokeswoman for the deli. He and a business associate, Larry Marion of Brooklyn, shared a meal, and a few hours later, Benjamin was on a plane back to California carrying a Woody Allen — a $29.99 pile of corned beef and pastrami on rye.

“I’m taking it back to L.A. to make everybody jealous,” Benjamin said as his plane prepared to taxi. He said he had heard on Monday that the deli was reopening, and he had to squeeze in a visit. “It’s a pillar of New York culture,” he said.

Nicholas said the deli planned to have an official reopening on Feb. 17, but had a “soft opening” on Tuesday to prepare the staff. She said that the deli had hired some hostesses and cashiers, but that many of its 50 or so employees had been working there before the closing in April.

The city’s Buildings Department ordered the restaurant shut down after employees of the Consolidated Edison utility company discovered that natural gas had been diverted inside the building before it reached the company’s meter. The deli’s owner, Marian Harper, said she was unaware of the illegal tapping and paid the utility $40,050 for the gas that had been siphoned off over the previous six years.

Repairing the pipes took much longer than Harper had anticipated. In the meantime, the deli remained closed and tenants who lived in the apartments above it went through the summer, fall and into winter without gas for heating or cooking. Heat was finally restored a few weeks ago.

“They got everything fixed,” Nicholas said. “This was the earliest that they could open.”

Little else changed in nearly a year, she said. “It looks the same, same menu. And today, finally, it smells the same. It’s got that beautiful aroma of pastrami and corned beef.”