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Valentino’s won’t open its doors%A0until 2010: City

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The long-awaited caterer that will replace Bayside’s Caffé on the Green probably will not open for business until 2010 as the concessionaire awaits approval from several city agencies, the city Parks Department said.

Caffé on the Green, which was located at 201-10 Cross Island Pkwy. in Bayside, closed its doors permanently Jan. 1 after the city decided not to renew concessionaire Joseph Franco’s contract. Earlier this year, the Parks Department chose Manhattan’s Friendship Restaurant Group to take over operations for the site. The new catering hall will be called Valentino’s on the Green after the silent film star who lived on the site. But a Parks spokeswoman said Valentino’s would not likely open until next year.

“The concessionaire now plans to open this winter,” she said. “They discovered the need for more extensive capital improvements than were originally expected, primarily structural issues relating to the floors. The increased improvements coupled with getting all the appropriate public approvals has caused the delay.”

Valentino’s operators would need to get approval from the city Department of Buildings and the city Public Design Commission before moving ahead with any renovations, she said.

Friendship, which is made up of several groups including White Plains restaurant Famous Famiglia, also operates more than 20 restaurants across the city. Paul Kolaj, president of Famous Famiglia, did not return numerous calls for comment.

In March, city Comptroller William Thompson’s office began an audit of Flushing’s World Fair Marina Restaurant and Banquet, which was also operated by one of Friendship’s members. On Tuesday, the comptroller released his audit, which called for the city to remove or monitor the operators of World Fair and accused the restaurant of not reporting all its revenue.

But a Parks spokeswoman said this week that World Fair’s operator had dropped out of Friendship Restaurant Group in mid-February.

Community leaders said they were frustrated Valentino’s was taking so long to open.

“I’m very upset about it,” said Eugene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7. “We’re out of the loop and we get no updates. We’ve lost revenue for the past nine months after [the city] threw the old owner out — and I mean they really threw him out. They put 88 employees who were paying taxes to the city out of business. I think the Parks Department has done an excellent job of screwing everything up. It’s a disservice to the community.”

Kelty said he had heard plans for the site included the addition of an exterior elevator that would provide handicap accessibility. But the board does not want any further extensions on the building other than the elevator, he said.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) also said the city has not updated him on the project.

“The whole issue for many of us was to have a smooth transition,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like it is that smooth at this point. It was an important catering facility for northeast Queens, so everyone would like to see it back in operation.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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