Pia’s voice carries from Howard Beach to Hollywood

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Memphis built a statue of Elvis and Hollywood captured the handprints of John Lennon in concrete, but Howard Beach, a small insular community in southern Queens, is paying tribute to its newest star with food.

Pia Toscano is the 22-year-old singer who has captivated millions of viewers of the television show “American Idol.” She has also been popping up on menus around the neighborhood.

Toscano has tried out for “American Idol” before, but this time is favored to win by many followers of the show

She was set to sing this Wednesday and then voting was set for Thursday. If Toscano survives, she will be one of 11 contestants left on the program.

A contestant is eliminated each week of the show until the finale May 25.

Pizza, pasta and paninis have all been named in her honor around Howard Beach, with the proceeds often going to charities.

“Everybody is so excited,” said Lysa King at Carosello restaurant on Cross Bay Boulevard, where “I love Pia” posters hung in the windows. “Everybody is wearing Pia pins.”

King said Toscano was a well-known wedding singer who often performed at the neighborhood catering hall Russo’s on the Bay.

“She had a beautiful voice and seemed very sweet,” King said.

Samantha Fischer, another Howard Beach resident, said Toscano was sure to win.

“She’s the only one who got a standing ovation,” she said, referring to a March 2 performance where all three judges stood to applaud.

Fischer said everybody in the neighborhood is behind the singer — and they better show their support.

“I think everybody should vote,” she said. “As a fellow Howard Beach resident, I’m proud to have someone on ‘American Idol.’ I think she’s going to make it to the finals.”

Another Howard Beach resident had an “I love Pia” pin prominently displayed on his sweatshirt.

Bruno Rimaldi, a fifth-grader at PS 207, said that everybody in his school went nuts for Toscano.

“The whole school is so excited,” he said.

And they have reason to be. Toscano is a graduate of the elementary school — a fact Nina DeBlasio, the parent coordinator, said helps inspire the students.

“We always try to inspire our students and tell them that they could go far,” she said. “And at their age level, they’re seeing a graduate of the school go onto national television.”

The kids painted posters and banners and held a raucous rally in the cafeteria, DeBlasio said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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