A week of fun and friendship

| vschneps@queenscourier.com |

It was a week of fun and friends.

My friend John Koufakis of the Star Auto Group, after overcoming many obstacles (like empty Fiat sign crates), finally completed his showroom for the new Fiat dealership in Queens Village. I was enamoured with the cute car and asked him if I could take it for a spin.

Then later in the week, I had the pleasure of dinner with the remarkable, lovable and powerful Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, his wife Jamie and dear friends Peter Meyer and Denise Arbesu at Park Side Restaurant in Corona. In between, I hosted a dinner party at Due Ponti in Whitestone with friends Joe and MaryAnn Mattone, Linda DeSabato and John Koufakis.

And to finish a wonderful week we enjoyed dinner at my friend Nick and Maria Nubile’s restaurant in Manhattan, the fabulous Fabio Piccolo Fiore. What a week!

I am not a car aficionado but I read about cars all the time and when my friend John Koufakis got the franchise for Fiat, a car I owned decades ago, I wanted to drive it. My curiosity was piqued when I heard one of the cars would be designed by the elegant Gucci brand. What a brilliant marketing move.

To add more glamour, the car company hired Jennifer Lopez to be its spokesperson — brilliant. Not only do men fall in love, but we women can’t resist the temptation of the designer brand.

The Gucci Fiat edition will feature exteriors with special glossy pearl paint and satin chrome hardware accents. The interior will have two-tone seats with special embroidery and leather accents, and of course they will offer all kinds of Gucci accessories, from sunglasses to clothing.

So what about the car? Well, on a sunny afternoon last week I took one of the many brightly-colored cars for a ride around Queens Village along Jamaica Avenue.

I got into the Fiat 500 and was surprised at how roomy the interior felt. The attractive interior even had seat warmers and we opened the roof (there are several convertibles available) so the cool air didn’t matter. I think the sun roof makes the interior feel bright and open, enlarging the space.

As we pulled away from the dealership I was told it’s called a Fiat “studio,” not a showroom. The car was easy to drive and though it’s small, it’s bigger than the Mercedes Smart Car and about the same size as the Mini Cooper.

The 500 has seven air bags that made me feel more comfortable, as we were surrounded by larger cars. But I’m not big on worrying about techie things. I loved the look and feel of the car and can’t wait until the Gucci model comes in. If only I needed another car I would love this fun one.

It didn’t hurt that everyone at a light gave me a thumbs up. It’s fun to be noticed.

Having bought a group of newspapers in Brooklyn a year ago I had the opportunity to get to know Marty Markowitz, the indomitable Borough President of Brooklyn, my hometown.

I grew up in Brooklyn, got married there and moved to Bayside just before my first child, Lara, was born in 1968. So my pride in Brooklyn has always remained and it meant so much to me to “return.”

Meeting Marty is to love and respect him. His wife Jamie is his anchor and also a wonderful person and we have gotten to know them both. So when I invited them to join us for dinner I asked him where he’d like to eat. Assuming he would suggest a Brooklyn place I had to laugh when the answer was one of my favorite places also, Park Side in Corona.

I invited Peter Meyer and Denise Arbesu, mutual friends, to join us also. Well of course we had a superior meal, but what was an added bonus were the adoring fans who came over to the table or stopped Marty as we left to say hello and share how much they love him! His charisma was evidenced by his adoring fans; several that night asked him to run for mayor. I’m sure it’s tempting since his love of the city is so evident, but he must decide if he has the fire in his belly to withstand the attacks when you are a strong leader. We will all be watching . . .

It was a week of wonderful food and friendship. It doesn’t get better than that!