Tag Archives: Astoria

Astoria band captures audiences with unique electric beats


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Scott Nidermaier/NidermaierPictures.com

When Distoria takes the stage, audience members are left wondering how just three members can make so much noise and create such a unique sound.

In 2010, the Astoria alternative rock band was formed when frontwoman Helena Martin was invited to play as a solo act at B.O.M.B. Fest in Connecticut. Martin knew she wanted to make the performance special and decided to add a drummer, Cody Rahn, to her vocal and piano act.

“Immediately I said I don’t want to play by myself, I want to make this interesting,” she said.

That performance was Distoria’s first, although the group wasn’t complete until later, when Mor Mezrich joined as the bassist and audio engineer. Martin said that although she had always been involved in music on her own, she actually felt that working with other musicians allowed her to discover who she is as a musician.

The name of the group came after Martin’s younger brother was visiting her in Astoria and combined the names of Ditmars and Astoria after being told to get off at the Astoria-Ditmars subway station.

“I said that’s an awesome name, I’m going to write that down,” Martin recalled.

The trio began experimenting with electronic elements in their music, which makes Distoria what it is today, and in 2011 the band was called back to play B.O.M.B. Fest, which was headlined by musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Weezer.

Helena Martin

Helena Martin

According to Martin, it took the group about a year to learn about making the electronic tunes on a program called Ableton Live and to figure out how they would use it for Distoria. And even though they have found their unique sound, Martin said the group is always learning.

“We’re always learning, figuring out ways to do better,” she said. “It’s cool because as we uncover the limitations, the limitations let us push those limits.”

Along with their instruments, each member of the band plays an electronic element. For example, while playing the piano and singing, Martin also has a square pad in front of her that also creates sounds.

“Sometimes it sounds like there are a lot more people on stage than there are,” Martin said. “People say, ‘That’s crazy, how did you do that one song?’”

When it comes to what makes Distoria stand out from other groups, Martin said that when they hit the stage they do not just hit a play button at the beginning of the song. Each tune is either created on the spot or is physically turned on by a band member.

Because of all the different aspects of their music, the members are constantly rehearsing in Astoria, the neighborhood Martin and Mezrich call home, to make sure every beat works. Mezrich also owns his own studio in Astoria called Ears & Gears Recording.

Martin added that another thing that makes Distoria unique is that although they play hard rock music, which usually involved an electric guitar, the band does not have a guitarist. When audience members hear what sounds like a guitar, it is actually Mezrich playing his bass really high while Rahn hits bass pads on the drums to mimic the bass.

“We don’t have a guitar but we still rock pretty hard and pretty loud,” Martin said.

Martin writes all of Distoria’s lyrics from personal experiences. Her bandmates then help add the body and beats to the songs.

“If you listen to all the lyrics, you will know everything about me,” she said. “What I’m doing now with Distoria is what I’ve always intended but never knew that I intended. That’s what I always meant to have. It’s really exciting.”

Distoria released their first EP called “Periphery” in 2013 after a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped them fund the production of the five-song album, which can be found on iTunes.

They have also recently released a new single “Dark White” with a bonus track called “Lift Point.” A music video for “Dark White” is also slated to be released soon.

The band plans to have various shows in the fall and also hopes to do a mini-tour to local cities such as Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C.

In the future the group also hopes they can be part of large music festivals where more people can listen to their unique sound.

For more information on Distoria, visit www.distoriamusic.com.

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Cops looking for assailant who struck man in the head on Astoria street


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

The NYPD released on Saturday night video footage of a man wanted for smacking a pedestrian in the head with a blunt object on an Astoria street last month.

According to police, the attack occurred at 2:45 p.m. on June 17 in front of a location on 34th Street near 37th Avenue.

Reportedly, the perpetrator walked up to the 34-year-old man and hit him in the head with an unknown object, then fled the scene.

Officers from the 114th Precinct and EMS units responded to the incident. The victim was treated at Elmhurst Hospital for a laceration to the head.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit their website or send a text message to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577. All calls and messages will be kept confidential.

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Astoria street to be co-named after late community leader


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

The dedication and hard work of one Astoria community leader, who passed away earlier this year, will live on in the neighborhood he helped flourish.

The City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would co-name streets throughout the city, including 30th Avenue between 30th and 29th streets, which will be named in honor of Dennis Syntilas, who died on Jan. 7.

Syntilas, 85, was a civic leader and community organizer in Astoria who helped bring the culture of Greece to Queens. He was the founder of the community-based organization Greek-American Homeowners Association, which helps connect Greek-Americans with government resources and promotes civic engagement.

“I am proud to honor Dennis Syntilas and his family with this street co-naming. His contributions to his community have been longstanding. Syntilas worked to improve Astoria by promoting Hellenic and Democratic values through his founding of Athens Square and the Greek-American Homeowners Association,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides, who co-sponsored the co-naming bill. “He is a great example of civic engagement and responsibility throughout our community. This recognition will forever commemorate his tireless work and contributions to our city.”

Syntilas was also one of the forces behind the creation of Athens Square Park on 30th Avenue, where the street will be co-named Dennis Syntilas Way. The park serves as a public space functioning as both a cultural center and recreational site with a playground, amphitheater and numerous sculptures of ancient Greek figures.

“If Dennis was with us today, he would be proud to see how well his dream has come to life. It is an honor to continue his legacy through the addition of Dennis Syntilas Way,” state Senator Michael Gianaris said. “He made so many sacrifices not just for this park but for our entire community and all the immigrants who made their way here over the decades.”

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Co-working company to open space in Astoria: report


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy PropertyShark/Ed Fahoury

A co-working company that has locations throughout the nation and around the world has set its eye on Queens for its next home, according to a published report.

WeWork, which provides individuals and groups with work space, community and services, has leased a 60,000-square-foot space at 35-37 36th St. in Astoria, the Commercial Observer reported.

The space, which has been reportedly leased for 15 years and is expected to open by early 2016, is located at Studio Square, which is also home to the Studio Square beer garden and Miami Ad School.

The six-story building is owned by the Vanbarton Group, which bought it last June for $29.2 million.

WeWork is also reportedly looking to lease locations in Long Island City.

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Top Queens hot dog spots for National Hot Dog Day


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

The hot dog has long held the honor of being one of America’s favorite summertime treats, taking center stage at cookouts, campfires and ballparks throughout the summer months. To celebrate this iconic food, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council designated July as Hot Dog Month, with Thursday, July 23, as National Hot Dog Day.

Whether you prefer your dogs boiled, grilled, barbecued or topped with everything from classic relish to more exotic fare like pineapples and sriracha, indulge in this summertime staple at some of the best hot dog spots in Queens.

Ben’s Best
96-40 Queens Blvd., Rego Park
718-897-1700

IMG_5570

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

This gourmet kosher delicatessen has been a neighborhood staple, serving up classic deli fare such as mile-high hot pastrami on rye, kreplach and cabbage rolls for nearly 70 years. Their Empire National brand natural casing frankfurters are grilled to perfection.

Ben’s franks are served with choice of mustard, ketchup, relish and sauerkraut ($4.50), or topped with red onions, coleslaw, chili and even potato salad for just a dollar more. A can of Dr. Brown’s root beer or Cel-Ray celery soda makes the perfect pairing to this flavorful summertime feast.

La Perrada de Chalo
83-12 Northern Blvd., Jackson Heights
718-639-6677

LaPerrada

Photo courtesy of La Perrada de Chalo

Established in 1995, La Perrada boasts the largest selection of authentic gourmet Colombian hot dogs in the city. The Iraqui ($4.15) is a unique salty and sweet mix of potato chips, eggs, pineapple, sauces and cheese. For tropical flavor, try the Al Gusto ($5) topped with Hawaiian pineapple, bacon, shrimp and eggs. The flavorful Criollo ($4.15) blends cabbage salad with pineapples, cheese, sauces and crushed chips for a crunchy treat.

Hungry patrons can go all out with the Showy ($4.15) topped with mortadella, onions, pineapple, cheeses and chips.

New York Dog House
37-06 30th Ave., Astoria
718-274-3647

NY DogHouse2

Photo courtesy of The New York Dog House

A quick trip to nearby Astoria will land you in the dog house — the New York Dog House that is. This popular eatery is home to a diverse menu of uniquely named signature hot dogs, sausages and bratwurst.

The California Dog ($8) features a Weisswurst sausage topped with avocado, lettuce, red onion and herbs. For a tasty experience, ride the Pineapple Express ($8), a mix of fresh pineapple, pickled onion and cilantro pesto on a hearty bratwurst sausage. For Wild West flavor, try The Cowboy ($9) a cheddar bratwurst topped with caramelized onions, crispy chipotle, bacon and homemade BBQ sauce.

Travel from the west to the Far East ($9), and enjoy a savory Num Pang sausage topped with homemade sesame chili paste, pickled daikon, scallions and roasted peanuts.

Butcher Bar
37-10 30th Ave., Astoria
718-606-8140

ButcherBar

Photo via Butcher Bar’s Facebook page

As the name suggests, this purveyor of delectable organic, grass-fed cuts of meat promises a savory experience for diners. Their sausage, peppers and onions ($11.99), with your choice of Butcher Bar’s homemade grilled hot, sweet or Filipino-style sausage, is a hearty alternative to the classic hot dog.

Dominick’s Hot Dog Truck
Woodhaven Boulevard at 67th Avenue, Rego Park

IMG_5588

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

Head back to Rego Park and make a pit stop at Dominick’s. This bright blue truck has long been a local favorite, serving up classic steamed Sabrett hot dogs topped with their homemade sautéed onions or sauerkraut ($3) and chili cheese dogs ($3.25).

Wash down all this savory goodness with a can of classic White Rock cream, orange or black cherry soda ($1.25) or chocolate Yoo-hoo ($1.50).

IMG_5591

Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

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Astoria puppet goes through to ‘America’s Got Talent’ live rounds


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 18 

A one-of-a-kind act is returning to his hometown to take the stage at Radio City Music Hall vying to win $1 million and the heart of a former Spice Girl. Ira, a 32-year-old Astoria native, was one of only seven acts out of 20 to make it to live rounds on Tuesday night’s episode of “America’s Got Talent.”

Along with his soulful voice, the thing that makes Ira stand out from all the other singers and competitors is that he is a puppet. During his performances, the audience never sees the puppeteer.

According to Ira, he grew up in Astoria and lived there for about 29 years before deciding to make the move to Los Angeles with his mother, who wanted to chase her dreams of being a singer. However, the dream then became Ira’s and after just singing as a favorite pastime, he decided to take it to the big stage.

During his initial audition on May 26, Ira chose to sing Joe Cocker’s “You are So Beautiful” and dedicated it to former Spice Girl Mel B, who judges the show together with Howard Stern, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel. However, at the end the singing puppet only managed to get three out of the four judges to give him a yes – excluding Mel B.

For his second performance Ira went back determined to win Mel’s heart but also said he wanted to continue sharing his talent and love with the world.

“Last time Mel turned me down and now this time I get a chance to win her heart, but that’s not the only reason I’m here,” he said during the episode. “After I sang and I saw all the smiles on all the people in the crowd I realized I do have a calling and that’s to sing and make people happy.”

Ira chose to sing Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” dedicating the song once again to Mel B, and this time shared the stage with his mother – another puppet – who said the song really was talking about getting ice cream.


After the performance the audience stood up clapping for Ira and this time the former Spice Girl had a change of heart.

“I have to say this time around I definitely want to get it on with you,” Mel B said.  Ira told The Courier after the episode that he and Mel are planning an ice cream date.

At the end of Tuesday’s episode, which featured special guest judge singer Michael Bublé, Ira took the stage one last time to hear the judges’ decision that he will be going through to the live rounds that will begin on Aug. 11 at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan.

Ira said that he is excited to come back to New York City and might event take trip back to Queens to visit some friends and neighbors.

“I’m coming back and saying, ‘Hey Astoria and New York, I’m here and never forgot about you,'” he told The Courier. “I’m just so happy to come back to the Big Apple and show Astoria some love.”

Now that Ira doesn’t have to worry about getting Mel B’s approval, he said for his live performance, in which America’s votes determine who will move on, he will try to appeal to a broader audience and go with a “bigger and flashier number.”

“I just want to thank everybody that supported me so far, all the folks that are watching, that are following me on Twitter and Instagram,” Ira said.

Ira is scheduled to take the stage at Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 18 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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Celebrate the premiere of ‘Sharknado 3′ in Queens


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Syfy

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Batten down the hatches and grab some bites at one of several Queens locations holding special screenings of “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” tonight.

The third installment in the tongue-in-cheek, B-movie franchise, premiering at 9 p.m. Wednesday on the Syfy channel, finds the entire Eastern Seaboard battered by killer sharks propelled onto land by another epic storm. It’s up to the aptly named chainsaw-wielding hero Fin Shepard, played by Ian Ziering of “Beverly Hills, 90210″ fame, and his wife April, played by actress Tara Reid, to do battle with the sharks and save the East Coast.

The franchise is known for its numerous celebrity cameos, with David Hasselhoff and Bo Derek appearing in this sequel as Fin’s parents. Local celebrity appearances include Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, along with the cast of the “Today Show.” Former Queens Congressman and 2013 mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner also appears as the movie’s National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration director.

The kitschy “Sharknado” trilogy has become an annual event, with many throwing shark-themed viewing parties to both celebrate and jeer at the over-the-top events and deliberately bad dialogue the movies have to offer. Here are a few ways to prepare for “Sharknado 3” in Queens.

Arepas Café and Grill
33-07 36th Ave., Astoria
718-937-3835

Shark is on the menu at this Astoria eatery in the form of savory Venezuelan arepas. The cazon arepa ($6.50) features shredded baby school shark, a form of white fish, served inside a gluten-free corn flatbread with onions, tomato, cilantro and peppers. The Pabellon Margariteno ($13) includes shredded baby school shark with white rice and black beans topped with grated white cheese and fried sweet plantains.

Sek’end Sun
32-11 Broadway, Astoria
917-832-6414

While the fate of many of Sharknado’s protagonists may hang in the balance, rejoice in being on dry land as you sip on Sek’end Sun’s cocktail ship of fools [on a cruel sea] ($10), a dark mix of strawberry-infused bourbon, balsamic vinegar, vanilla and lemon bitters.

Okeanos Greek Seafood Restaurant
35-02 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria
718-777-8844

For shark served with Mediterranean flare, Okeanos also features grilled or pan-seared baby shark ($13.50) with a side of garlic potato dip. Pair it with the taramosalata caviar spread ($5) or octopus with onions, peppers and capers ($15.95) for a luxurious taste of the sea.

The Astor Room
34-12 36th St., Astoria
718-255-1947

Fans of Sharknado’s gory action scenes may want to kick off their evenings at this Kaufman Astoria Studio’s cocktail bar and try the aptly named Blood and Sand ($12) which blends Buffalo Trace bourbon and Cherry Heering with Cocchi vermouth and freshly squeezed orange juice. Movie fans will marvel at The Astor Room’s cinematic history, as it once served as a commissary for Hollywood legends like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson and W.C. Fields while they filmed at the studios.

5 Burro Cafe
72-05 Austin St., Forest Hills
718-544-2984

Head over to Forest Hills and sip on this iconic eatery’s signature cocktail, The Shark Attack ($10), a potent blend of vodka, Blue Curacao, grenadine, 7-Up and lemon/lime. As a bonus, this specialty cocktail is often served with a small toy shark, usually bearing the grenadine.

Forest Hills Station House
106-11 71st Ave., Forest Hills
718-544-5000

As the Sharknado approaches, take cover inside this quaint pub located on the outskirts of Forest Hills Gardens and try the Dark and Stormy ($10), a spicy mix of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, ginger beer and lime.

Cozy Corner Tavern
60-01 70th Ave., Ridgewood
718-381-8397

This Ridgewood bar is hosting a special viewing party for the premiere of “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” The festivities begin at 7 p.m., when the bar will air last year’s “Sharknado 2: The Other One,” which was set in Queens and Manhattan. Then, stay tuned for the main event when “Sharknado 3” airs on every TV in the bar at 9 p.m. Cozy Corner also will be serving up Sharknado-inspired drinks, and shark-themed costumes and attire are encouraged.

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Live multimedia trivia game show to begin in Astoria next month


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Ryan Muir

Astoria will soon become the Queens home of a unique trivia experience that looks to engage audience members through the use of multimedia.

The Big Quiz Thing, a trivia show which was started 12 years ago in Manhattan and has since expanded to other states, has announced it will begin its residency in Astoria on Aug. 4 at Q.E.D., located at 27-16 23rd Ave.

On the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m., The Big Quiz Thing will take the stage featuring live categories such as the Lighting Round, the Text Message Challenge, the Buzzertastic Finale, Smart-Ass Points for wrong but funny answers, and “figureoutable” trivia questions, where people will be able to work together with team members to piece together answers.

Topics for questions include everything from pop culture and sports to geography and science. There will also be a video round where audience members have to figure out the title of a movie after watching a movie clip, and an audio puzzle where T.V. theme songs have been sped up and guests have 20 seconds to identify them.

According to creator Noah Tarnow, who writes all the questions for the show and will be hosting the Aug. 4 show, everyone who attends the show participates in some level and everyone is divided into groups. Most of the show is played while audience members are in their seats and interact through an app/website where people can play through their smartphones or tablets.

“I think our game is fun even if you don’t do well,” Tarnow said. “I have a lot of regular teams that almost never win and they come back again and again because they have a fun time anyway. It’s more about having a good time than winning or losing.”

The Big Quiz Thing also has its own TV game show which can be seen here.

Prizes include items from Birch Coffee, the Brooklyn Museum, the Morbid Anatomy Museum, the Real Escape Game, Scott’s Pizza Tours and Brooklyn Brainer.

Tarnow added that with their new Queens residency, he is looking to soon include prizes from local Queens and Astoria businesses as well.

Tickets for the show are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. For more information, visit QEDAstoria.com or BigQuizThing.com.

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Themed popup bar serving craft cocktails coming to Sunnyside


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Matthew Callahan

Something refreshing is popping up at a Sunnyside restaurant looking to celebrate the long days of summer.

Behind The Wood, an Astoria-based beverage consulting company, is coming together with Venturo Osteria & Wine Bar, located at 44-07 Queens Blvd., to bring the Behind The Wood Popup Bar starting this Friday and Saturday.

The popup bar, which will be open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every weekend in the summer, will have a “summer solstice” theme featuring a summer-driven drink menu filled with craft cocktails all created fresh in house, homemade/refurbished décor, music, and different events such as a move night.

The drink menu will feature two parts. The top part will include four original drinks that are inspired by summer and the bottom half will be the “back to basics section” where guests will be able to also try variations of classic drinks.

The idea of the bar came after the owner of Venturo approached Behind The Wood co-owners Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin, who have more than 30 years combined in the hospitality industry, and said regulars to the restaurant were looking for a local place to get drinks.

Behind The Wood co-owners Mashia Baldwin and Scott Scaffidi.

Behind The Wood co-owners Mashia Baldwin and Scott Scaffidi

Behind The Wood — which for the past two years has offered establishments services such as cocktail menu development; staff and management training; juice, house-made syrups and ice; bar equipment and tools; spirits recommendations; and bar design — had worked with Venturo before when it just opened and decided to help create the popup bar.

The bar will remain opened after the summer with the theme changing in the fall and then changing every two months. There will be a holiday theme around November and December, and possibly a tiki bar theme in the winter.

According to Scaffidi, the popup bar will also serve as a way for him and Baldwin to test the waters with future plans of opening their own establishment in Queens.

“The idea is that down the line we would like to open our own brick-and-mortar bar,” said Scott Scaffidi. “We are using this as a test kitchen to see how people respond and in that way it can be exciting for guests.”

For more information visit www.behindthewood.nyc.

Photo courtesy of Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin.

Photo courtesy of Scott Scaffidi and Mashia Baldwin

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The top five outdoor eateries along Astoria’s 30th Avenue


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Butcher Bar

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

30th Avenue in Astoria is one of the hottest strips for dining and nightlife in Queens. With summer in full swing, check out our picks for the top five outdoor eateries for dining al fresco in the heart of the neighborhood.

Butcher Bar
37-10 30th Ave.
718-606-8140

This purveyor of grass-fed, organic grain finished beef is part old-school butcher shop, part BBQ smokehouse vending high-quality cuts of meat, such as antibiotic- and hormone-free organic chicken, heritage pork, beef and traditional meat products. Hungry patrons can opt to purchase meat to cook at home, or they can stay and dine in Butcher Bar’s backyard garden complete with long, family-style wooden picnic tables, bold red canvas umbrellas and strings of cozy Edison lightbulb lanterns.

Photo courtesy of the Facebook page of Butcher Bar

Photo via Butcher Bar Facebook page

Dishes like the saucy yet sweet “meat candy” beef burnt ends ($13.50), half-baked mac and cheese ($10.99) Philly cheese brisket ($13.50) and tender St. Louis-style house smoked dry rubbed ribs ($19.99 half rack; $34.99 full) have earned Butcher Bar notoriety and a cult-like following. Stars of the new summertime bottomless brunch are the candied bacon and the smoked brisket hash with country gravy. Butcher Bar’s expertly prepared meats can also be found outdoors at the LIC Flea every Saturday and Sunday until the end of October.

Grand Café
37-01 30th Ave.
718-777-7321

Photo courtesy of Grand Cafe

Photo courtesy of Grand Cafe

Sunlight and summer breezes waft into Grand Café’s exotic appointed dining room through large glass doors that open out onto ample sidewalk seating. The azure umbrellas, canvas chairs, exotic plants and palms create the feeling of dining outdoors in a quaint seaside resort town along the Aegean Sea without ever having to leave Astoria. Early birds will want to visit this Mediterranean eatery and sample the Cypriot omelette ($7.25), a mix of loukaniko, halloumi and tomato, while sipping the Early Riser ($9), an organic cold pressed juice blend of pineapple, pear, apple and mint. Lunch options include an impressive list of fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers and savory crepes, as well as an organic Greek yogurt bar. The specially seasoned lamb burger ($13.50), served with spicy feta on a seven-grain roll, is another great pick.

Antika Restaurant and Pizzeria
36-08 30th Ave.
718-545-0555

Photo courtesy of the Facebook page of Antika Restaurant and Pizzeria

Photo via Antika Pizzeria’s Facebook page

This Neapolitan-style brick oven pizzeria uses only the finest ingredients to bring the authentic flavor of Naples to Astoria. Patrons can opt to slide into one the red leather banquets that line the exposed brick walls of Antika’s cozy dining room, or they can dine outside at one of six tables beneath the bold red canvas awning for the experience of an Italian piazza on a tree-lined street in Queens. Antika is best known for its old-fashioned, Grandma-style square pizza ($21) made with fresh San Marzano tomatoes and Grana Padano pecorino cheese. The prosciutto pizza dough sandwich ($14), which features prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella and olive oil in a balsamic reduction, is another great choice.

Sugar Freak
36-18 30th Ave.
718-726-5850

Photo courtesy of Sugar Freak

If you’re seeking authentic Louisiana-style comfort food in the heart of the city, Sugar Freak delivers. Start out with a bowl of Creole French onion Soup ($9), chili honey-infused hush puppies ($8) or popcorn alligator served with Creole mustard and grape jelly ($12). Sugar Freak’s extensive dinner menu features a delectable roster of New Orleans favorites like po’boys ($10-16), beer can chicken with sweet potato waffles ($17), jambalaya ($15) and crawfish etouffee ($18). Wash down all of this spicy goodness with a libation from their newly updated cocktail list, including the classic hurricane ($8), Creole bloody mary ($8) or swamp juice ($8), a potent blend of vodka, Triple Sec, Blue Curaçao, pineapple and orange juice complete with gummy worm garnish. Sugar Freak’s eclectic mix of antique chandeliers, corrugated tin ceiling and delicately roped-off sidewalk patio complete with cafe chairs and vintage floral linens impart a rustic, homespun vibe that is both inviting and inspired.

William Hallet
36-10 30th Ave.
718-269-3443

Photo courtesy of the Facebook page of William Hallet

Photo via William Hallet’s Facebook page

This laid-back, American-style bistro features both weekend brunch and late-night drinks in a cozy, intimate setting. Enjoy a craft beer or weekend brunch favorites like the duck sausage hash ($15) or crab cake benedict ($16) while seated outdoors at one of several cozy café tables. William Hallet’s slow-cooked brisket ($16) served with grilled zucchini hush puppies, deviled egg salad and charmoula is the perfect summertime feast. Classic cocktails are also available. Try the guava lemonade ($10), blueberry smash ($10) or The Outerboro ($11), a flavorful mix of scotch, dry vermouth, grapefruit bitters and Swedish Punsch. Stay up-to-date on William Hallet’s special events here.

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Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image to present exhibit examining cats online


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of The Infinite Cat Project/Gallery by Thanassi Karageorgiou / Museum of the Moving Image

Updated Monday, July 20 

Cats lovers, unite.

Next month, the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave. in Astoria, will launch a five-month exhibition called How Cats Took Over the Internet, looking at how these furry felines have mesmerized a generation of online users with their quirky actions and adorable looks.

The exhibit, which runs from Aug. 7 through Jan. 31, 2016, will examine the history of the growing popularity of online cat-centric content while taking a look at things such as Caturday, lolcats, cat videos, celebrity cats and more.

“The Internet’s collective obsession with cats offers a window into the way we understand ourselves. This exhibition examines the many reasons for this deceptively frivolous phenomenon and highlights the new ways we’re creating, consuming and sharing culture,” said Jason Eppink, associate curator of digital media, who organized the exhibition.

How Cats Took Over the Internet will include a video screening at the museum’s amphitheater and features a gallery including a selection of Internet cat videos, GIFs and images that take a critical look at subjects such as anthropomorphism, the aesthetics of cuteness, the Bored at Work Network and the rise of user-generated content.

Together with the video screening, there will also be a selection of cat videos projected in a continuous loop, organized by Will Braden, curator of the Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis.

There will also be a multimedia timeline capturing the significant moments of cats online, joined with a historical looks at the representation of cats in photos, film and other visual media.

The exhibition will also feature interactive stations where visitors will be able to create their own lolcats and contribute their favorite cat photos, GIFs and videos to the exhibition. There will also be a world map of international animal memes by The Civic Beat, a collective of researchers and writers focused on civic technology.

As part of the various live events that will occur throughout the five months, on Oct. 10 there will be The Cat-vant Garde Film Show in the Sumner M. Redstone Theater. This show will focus on how cats have inspired experimental films such as “Nightcats,” “Cat’s Cradle,” “Catfood,” “How to Draw a Cat,” and more. Other programs will be announced later on.

The Museum of the Moving Image is open Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on the weekends from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit www.movingimage.us.

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Astoria filmmakers turn to Kickstarter to fund ‘dialogue-free,’ 12-part film


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of Cynthia Angel

Two Astoria filmmakers are hoping to reach their goal that will allow them to set an acclaimed music producer’s debut solo album to film.

Cynthia Angel and Dominic Lahiff, the minds behind D L A Films, are coming together with producer Neil Davidge – known for his work with Massive Attack, and the “Halo 4” video game – to create the mystery revenge thriller audiovisual film “Slo Light.”

They turned to Kickstarter, with a goal of $70,000, to raise funds needed for the preproduction, production and post-production of the film.

Since launching on Thursday, the campaign has already raised $5,156.

“It’s been a really interesting process. We’ve been working on it for two years,” said Angel, whose dream has been to produce her own film. “We’re really excited and happy to be able to reach an audience and make it happen. The story is going to be really cool.”

The trio first came together when working on “Dark Universe” – in which Lahiff was the director/writer, Angel was the producer, and Davidge was the music producer – for the American Natural History Museum. The short film is narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson and is still on view at the Hayden Planetarium at the museum.

After this project, Angel and Lahiff were asked to work on a music video for Davidge and while working on the video developed the idea for a cinematic album. For the next year, Lahiff worked on a story for the film and the two filmmakers then got back together with Davidge.

“Our visions are aligned and we have the same taste and like working together, and from there stems the idea to make a film together,” Angel said about working with Lahiff.

The film will be divided into 12 chapters, which will be released online during the course of 12 weeks. Each chapter will be set to a track from Davidge’s debut album, “Slo Light.” It will have no dialogue and will be shot in 35mm film.

Screen Shot Slo Light

“We want to keep that [35mm] format alive. A lot of times people think film is too expensive so we want to prove that it can still be done and make a beautiful film,” Angel said.

For Angel, creating this film is a dream come true because she always hoped to be able to produce her own film.

“It feels amazing, it’s kind of terrifying but really exciting at the same time but it feels really good. I feel all the experiences I’ve gained throughout the years have led up to this moment,” Angel said.

If their project is fully funded, the plans are to shoot the film in the fall, with a slated release date for early spring of 2016.

For more information or to donate to the Kickstarter campaign, click here. To stay updated on the project visit twitter.com/slolightfilmfacebook.com/slolightfilm or dlafilms.com.

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VIDEO & PHOTOS: George Clinton gets funky at Queensbridge Park performance


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

With the Queensboro Bridge as the backdrop, the “godfather of funk” took the stage at Queensbridge Park Wednesday during a night filled with laughter and dancing.

About a thousand people flocked to the Long Island City waterfront park, located along Vernon Boulevard, to catch George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic during a free performance as part of SummerStage’s 30th anniversary summer festival.

The group, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, performed classics such as “Give Up The Funk,” “Not Just Knee Deep,” “Maggot Brain,” “One Nation Under A Groove,” “Flashlight,” “Aquaboogie,” “P.Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” and many more.

Fans danced and sang along with the songs as Clinton jumped on stage with other group members.

Clinton has been referred to as one of the trendsetters of funk music and known for revolutionizing R&B during the ’70s. Parliament Funkadelic recorded three platinum albums and had over 40 R&B hit singles. Through the ’80s the group recorded as the P-Funk All Stars.


Wednesday night’s concert is part of a six-day festival taking place at eight local parks. The night before, Queensbridge Park presented the musical group Chi-Lites and on Thursday night it will host Large Professor (LP), a hip-hop songwriter, producer and DJ from Flushing, together with Marley Mark.

The performance was not Clinton’s first visit to Queens, as he came to the borough last October during a discussion and book signing event, for his memoir “Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You? : A Memoir,” at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.


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Astoria multifamily building on sale for $1.5M


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Cushman & Wakefield

A three-story, six-unit building near Astoria Park and the new Astoria Cove development site has hit the market, according to real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.

The multifamily building located at 429 27th Ave. in Astoria is being exclusively sold by Cushman & Wakefield and has an asking price $1,500,000.

The site contains about 4,080 square feet on a 20-foot-by-100-foot lot and the building consists of two two-bedroom units and four one-bedroom units. All are rent stabilized.

“The way Astoria’s waterfront is being developed will have such a positive impact on the properties in the near vicinity, so we are seeing a lot of interest in that part of the neighborhood,” said David Chkheidze of Cushman & Wakefield, who is exclusively marketing this property with Ilya Tolmasov.

“This building offers tremendous upside potential in an area that is rapidly emerging,” Tolmasov added.

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Councilman starts petition for traffic safety improvements surrounding Astoria Park


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo by Katrina Medoff

After the life of a 21-year-old woman was cut short last month on her way home, one local politician is putting his foot down and asking Astoria residents to join the fight to bring safety improvements in and around Astoria Park.

Councilman Costa Constantinides started a petition Monday calling for improvements to be made on streets such as Shore Boulevard, Ditmars Boulevard, 19th Street and Hoyt Avenue South.

“The streets surrounding Astoria Park are a dangerous stretch for pedestrians. The corridor is used by many families and children on the way to the park. All the while, many motorists race to and from the park at high rates of speed. A recent hit-and-run death that occurred in the area shows that we need better traffic safety,” Constantinides said. “We have made great strides recently in calming traffic in Astoria through safety improvements on 21st Street south of Hoyt Avenue and through the upcoming slow zone south of Astoria Boulevard. That’s why I have started a petition to support traffic improvements on the streets in and around Astoria Park. I look forward to working with DOT to make Astoria a safer place to live.”

The petition comes after Betty DiBiasio was struck on June 28 by a car as she was crossing a marked crosswalk at the intersection of Ditmars Boulevard and 19th Street, just blocks from her home.

The car, which was being driven by 24-year-old Astoria resident Nicholas Colleran, drove through a stop sign and then struck DiBiasio, according to officials.

Colleran allegedly called 911 about an hour after the accident to report that his car had been stolen and in his vehicle theft investigation report claimed it had been taken from a parking lot in the back of his residence. The vehicle was discovered in another location in Astoria with a broken windshield and driver’s side-view mirror, and a damaged driver’s side front fender.

There also appeared to be blood and hair in the driver’s side windshield, where it was broken, and, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, was consistent with a vehicle striking a pedestrian and the pedestrian hitting the windshield.

Colleran then turned himself into the police where he admitted that he had two beers before driving and striking DiBiasio and then leaving the scene.

He was charged with leaving the scene of an incident without reporting a death, third-degree falsely reporting an incident, failure to stop for a stop sign, driving by an unlicensed operator, failure to exercise due care and a violation of the city’s administrative code.

To sign Constantinides’ petition, click here.

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