Former Karen’s cook opens La Antigua

After 25 years in business, Karen Haas sold Karen’s Country Delicatessen to a buyer well-acquainted with the space on Main Road in Cutchogue.

Yanira Navidad, who worked for approximately five years as a cook at Karen’s, opened her new deli, La Antigua, last Thursday. 

“She wanted to sell it,” Ms. Navidad said, referring to Ms. Haas. “She wanted to see if we could take it over.”

The eatery’s classic green-cushioned booths and wood paneling aesthetic remains intact, as does much of the menu, from cold-cut sandwiches to chicken parmigiana served over linguini, Ms. Navidad said. However, she is now offering Latin foods, including chicken, rice and beans, plantains and pacayas, the flowers of date palms native to Guatemala, where her family is from.

Karen’s was well-known to locals as a cash-only establishment. But according to Juan Giron, Ms. Navidad’s husband, who is helping her run the show, La Antigua customers will have the option to pay with credit and debit cards once it receives a point-of-sale terminal.

With only about a month between purchasing Karen’s closing and opening La Antigua, Ms. Navidad said she used the time to upgrade the floors throughout the space, and noted that former Karen’s customers have noticed that — as well as the menu updates. 

“The customers are happy” with the changes so far and some are trying the new Latin menu items, she said. 

The deli is named for “a beautiful place in Guatemala,” which was at one time called Antigua Guatemala, meaning “Old Guatemala,” Ms. Navidad said. The region is known for coffee production and its lavish late Baroque-era architecture was typified by sculpted facades and bell towers.

Mr. Giron said he and Ms. Navidad, a couple of 16 years who reside in Cutchogue with their 14-year-old son, Francisco, hope to reconnect with Karen’s old customers now that they have reopened the familiar wooden screen doors and attract a new crowd.

“We’re trying to keep it going,” Mr. Giron said. “A lot of people were asking when we would open. We’re trying to make a family with the customers.”

Ms. Navidad said she has always wanted to be her own boss so she took the opportunity when it arose. Going from employee to entrepreneur brings more compromises and responsibilities, she said, and she hopes La Antigua takes off so she can expand the menu further.