From Crain’s New York:
January 05, 2009 3:23 PM
New operator tapped for famed Queens restaurant
Site is the former mansion of Rudolf Valentino, Fiorello LaGuardia and others.
The city’s Parks & Recreation department has tapped a new operator to run the popular restaurant in the Bayside, Queens mansion that was once the home of silent-film star Rudolph Valentino, and later, of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. The current occupant is Caffe on the Green.
Beginning February 1, Friendship Restaurant Group—a new joint venture between Famous Famigilia Pizzeria and Usha Holdings—is expected to take over the site located alongside Clearview Golf Course. Usha operates another city-owned property—World’s Fair Marina Restaurant on Flushing Bay—as well as 26 other restaurants in the city, according to the Parks Department.
Caffe on the Green lost its contract with the Parks Department in June after a city audit questioned whether the owners, Merissa Restaurant Corp., were reporting all of the restaurant’s revenues. The restaurant generates nearly $5 million a year and has been run by Merissa since 1992. Published reports linked the restaurant to a mafia figure, Joseph Franco.
On Tuesday, the Parks Department will hold a public hearing to formally announce the new concessionaire and to take comments from the public.
Friendship Restaurant Group will be expected to make capital improvements to the building and grounds of the eatery, including installing environmentally friendly appliances. The three-story restaurant, can accommodate up to 400 guests and has views of the Throgs Neck Bridge and Little Neck Bay.