MANHATTAN – There are two ways to tell whether a restaurant has been shut down by the NYC Department of Health: search for closed restaurants on the Health Department’s website, or even easier, just look at the large, bright yellow notice glued to the eatery’s front door announcing the closure. However, you wouldn’t know Centro Pizza on the Upper East Side had failed its recent inspection by walking past the storefront– because the business covered the notice in apparent bid to hide the reason for the shut down from customers.
On Monday morning, Upper East Site arrived at Centro Pizza— located at 1469 Second Avenue between East 76th and 77th Streets— to find a large cardboard sign advertising Junior’s Cheesecake taped to the front door of the pizzeria in the exact spot where the Health Department notice is usually affixed.
Through the pizzeria’s window, you can also see the reflection of the front door on a mirror on the rear wall, which showed the bight yellow notice had also been covered from the back— with no part of the Health Department closure order visible to customers or passers-by— the entire point of the notice.
ALSO READ | Cascalote Latin Bistro Opens New UES Restaurant
In fact, the notice itself reads that no closure order shall be “mutilated, obstructed, torn down or removed,” unless authorized to do so, citing the NYC Health Code.
After Upper East Site notified Centro Pizza they are required to keep the large yellow notice— reading “Closed by order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene”— visible to the public under New York City law, two workers came outside and removed the coverings.
However, once they thought Upper East Site had left the area, a man who identified himself as Centro Pizza’s owner propped open the pizzeria’s front door and began to hold a piece of paper up, apparently getting ready to cover the yellow closure order once again— until he noticed our reporter across the street.
“This is my business— this is between me and the Health Department,” said the man, who walked across Second Avenue to scold us.
“It’s very simple, don’t come to my store!” he shouted, “I don’t want to see you again! Very simple.”
A second employee came across the street and threatened to call the police on us. We encouraged them to do so, in hopes officers could inform them we had violated no laws photographing the pizzeria from a public sidewalk.
Hours later, Upper East Site returned to Centro Pizza to find a different man stationed in front of the main door, blocking the yellow notice from being seen by passers-by or would-be customers– whom he told the pizzeria was closed.
Centro Pizza was shut down last Thursday, June 23rd, when its first Health Department inspection in nearly three years uncovered several critical violations, including the presence of filth flies, mice, contamination and the use of soiled wiping cloths at the Lenox Hill establishment— racking up a total of 50 violation points.
Back in August 2019, the pizzeria only received twelve violation points.
Update: Centro Pizza reopened following a second inspection by the Health Department on June 27th.