Astoria bar goes against the grain

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What constitutes a bar in Astoria can vary widely. Some are sitdown restaurants, others are little more than a countertop and a television. Even the diners have illuminated “cocktail” signs in the windows.

But the owners of Mosaic, at 25-19 24th Ave., have gone to great pains to distinguish themselves as a watering hole unlike any other in the neighborhood.

“You can tell people are excited to tell their friends they discovered a place like this,” said Tom Romano, who co-owns the bar with two friends. “We get people coming in five times a week.”

Mosaic has only been open since April 29, but the extreme attention to detail, unique decor and enormous drink menu have created a loyal following.

“We’re operating on all cylinders: lighting, music, food, drinks and service,” Romano said. “There’s not one single thing in particular people remember. They can’t quite put their finger on it, but they had a good time.”

The bar sits on a corner of a quiet Astoria block, and provides a counterpoint to the rowdy Bohemian Beer Garden down the street.

Recessed lighting illuminates blue mosaic tiling along the molding, and vintage lamps provide a focal point for chattering groups of bar-goers who can sit on Victorian-style couches. Overall, the bar does not seem to be a throwback to a certain decade or time period, but it still exudes the feeling of a time when aesthetics were important. You will find hand-carved wooden pillars along the walls, not cookie-cutter furniture made of particleboard.

But a glance at the drink list lets visitors know — despite the red walls and the vintage chandelier that hangs from the ceiling — the bar is not pretentious.

“We are about brands and interesting names,” Romano said, listing off popular wines like Seven Deadly Zins, a white Zinfandel wine, or Big Ass Cab, a Cabernet Sauvignon. “It won’t be a French or Italian name you can’t pronounce, and even if you like it, you wouldn’t remember it the next day.”

The menu also boasts nearly 90 beers, which is an idea that came more from the neighborhood than from Romano.

Initially, he stocked 45 micro-brewed beers, but had mainstream names like Heineken or Becks to provide something with mass appeal.

“Nobody ordered it at all,” Romano said. “We found immediately people were ordering the craft beers.”

And that element of curiosity is at the core of Mosaic, according to Romano. The service and environment will remain constant, but Romano will always be thinking up new beers to stock and new music to play.

“You have to stay on top of what is fresh and exciting and entertaining and pique people’s interest,” he said. “You want to keep them coming back.”

As of now, those repeat customers are Romano’s neighbors — he lives above the bar — but he hopes to expand that radius through word of mouth to include everybody in Astoria.

“Astoria has so much diversity,” he said. “I thought that it is kind of a mosaic in a sense.”

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

Updated 12:01 pm, October 12, 2011
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