In the late 1950s, Marcello Caira sort of stumbled into the catering business. He had been the contractor hired to convert some Flushing storefronts along Northern Boulevard, near the corner of 162 Street, into the new home for a local nightclub - the Blue Note.
Caira eventually became a partner in the Blue Note when it reopened at the site in 1960. After a few years he took over the business, turned it into a catering facility and rechristened it the Reception House.
More than three successful decades later, Caira is combining his skills as builder and caterer to provide a new home for the Reception House and a new life for a neighboring catering facility, Villa Bianca.
"We can do catering, invitations, limousines, everything," said Caira's daughter and business partner, Lynda, of the Reception House. "We can get their flowers..."
"Music, entertainment," added Marcello Caira, who was dressed in a work shirt and taking a break from helping out the carpenters.
Lynda Caira said since they began renovating Villa Bianca at 167-17 Northern Blvd. in early January, her father has taken every opportunity to pick up some tools and help out the carpenters.
The Cairas said the work should be completed by the end of March. A portion of the facility has remained open over the past few weeks to accommodate parties and the Cairas are taking reservations for social functions for the coming months.
Even as father and daughter were being interviewed by this reporter, a young groom from Brooklyn, preparing to book his wedding reception, waited for a tour of the Victorian garden behind the building.
Marcello Caira said the young man had been disappointed with other facilities, which had promised him gardens, and she was excited to see his reaction when he saw what the Reception House had to offer.
The garden, complete with a heart-shaped pool, a bridge, and a gazebo, surrounded by patches of well-manicured grass, is one of the features that attracted the Cairas to the Villa Bianca.
Having tried and failed to purchase the old Reception House building several times from his landlord over the years, Caira set his sites on Villa Bianca last year as his lease was expiring.
In the early 1900s, before the building became known as Villa Bianca, it was the residence of silent film star Gloria Swanson. The 1950s saw the building transformed into a catering mecca under the aegis of Madame Bianca Pinchiaroli, her husband, son and daughter. For decades it remained a prime dining and catering destination along a more residential, less-developed Northern Boulevard. For a time it even had a dinner theater. Pinchiaroli served her last guests there this past December.
"I just know it as the dining area of the '50s, '60s, possibly '70s," said longtime Flushing resident Mary Anderson. "And then it petered out," she said, in the face of neighboring dining competition.
Caira said he had a hard time convincing the Pinchiaroli to sell but eventually assured her his changes would not be too drastic.
"All I wanted to do was renovate the place and bring the customers she had many years ago back," Marcello Caira said.
The outside of Villa Bianca - garden included - will remain pretty much the same, with only a few cosmetic changes.
The Cairas agreed that in purchasing the villa, which is situated in a more residential area, they gained a romantic look that the exterior of the old Reception House lacked.
The inside, however, is currently undergoing a complete overhaul. Where the Villa Bianca once had a party room and small dining room toward the front, with a second party room in the rear, the new Reception House will have a trio of rooms for hosting three affairs at once.
The Cairas said the building's outside will transport visitors "back to a more gentle and unhurried time," while the sleek new ballrooms have been designed to "reflect the look of the new millennium" with their polished dance floors, chandeliers, strings of lights and mirrors.
Coat check rooms, bathrooms and bridal rooms for the bridal parties to prepare in or retreat to are also being built for each of the three ballrooms.
By buying Villa Bianca, the Cairas also gained a larger parking lot - located on the same side of Northern Boulevard across 168th Street - as well as less congested on-street parking.
The Cairas suggest that anyone interested in booking an affair at the new Reception House call them at (718) 463-1600.
"The main thing is to call, come in, tell us about it, and maybe we can advise you," Marcello Caira said.
©2000 Community News Group
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