Tag Archives: Lenny’s Clam Bar

A taste of Howard Beach history

| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Robert Pozarycki

When Lenny’s Clam Bar ran television commercials years ago, owner Joe DiCandia Sr. became something of a local celebrity, famously offering viewers a free glass of wine to any diner who came to the Howard Beach hotspot and mentioned his name.

They still honor that promotion to this day even though the senior Joe DiCandia has long since handed the restaurant reins over to his son, Joe Jr. It’s part of a 42-year history of charm, tradition and good food that Lenny’s has offered to generations of customers who’ve come through its doors.

There have been changes to Lenny’s through the years, most notably after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which flooded it and many other Howard Beach businesses. DiCandia Jr. “turned a negative into a positive,” rebuilding the clam bar larger than before, as it expanded into a neighboring business.

Even with change, much of the staff — from line chefs to attendants — has been there for 20 years or longer. And the restaurant’s menu mainstays — sumptuous seafood and classic Italian cuisine — continue to attract customers from far and wide.

Naturally, the clam features prominently on the menu. The baked clams ($7.95 a half-dozen, $12.95 a dozen) are a great way to start your meal whether you’re a seafood lover or looking to try seafood for the first time. The cheesy breading complements the perfectly cooked clams, which offer diners that briny note of flavor that only fresh seafood can provide. Lenny’s also offers raw clams ($7.75 a half-dozen, $12.50 a dozen) and oysters ($12.95 for eight) on the half-shell, served with fresh lemon and cocktail sauce.

The seafood possibilities are almost endless when it comes to the main course. On our date to Lenny’s, my wife enjoyed the stuffed shrimp ($19.95) featuring mounds of scrumptious crab meat in a lemon wine butter sauce and served with potatoes and broccoli. You can also get broiled scallops or Norwegian salmon ($19.95 each) or breaded and baked lobster tails ($17.95 single tail, $24.95 for a double).

As an Italian food lover, I certainly enjoyed the chicken cutlet parmigiana ($18.95), a generous portion of perfectly cooked chicken breast covered in a zesty tomato sauce and served with linguine on the side. Other Italian specialties to try include the chicken sorrentino ($21.95) topped with tomato, prosciutto, eggplant and mozzarella in Madeira wine sauce and the linguine with red or white clam sauce ($14.95).

Lenny’s offers seemingly anything to suit anyone’s appetite, from tender barbecue baby back ribs basted in the house barbecue sauce to a boneless shell steak off the grill cooked to order. The kids menu features cheeseburgers, pasta or mozzarella sticks.

Whatever you order, save room for dessert, as Lenny’s offers an incredible variety of sweet treats straight out of the DiCandia family cookbook. Their homemade cannoli is light and sweet without being too heavy, while the pistachio bomb — a tartufo ball of pistachio ice cream with a chocolate shell and a raspberry sauce — is an explosively tasty and delightful way to end a meal.

Times may always change, but Lenny’s Clam Bar still reigns as the champion of classic seafood and Italian fare in Howard Beach.

Lenny’s Clam Bar
161-03 Cross Bay Blvd.,  Howard Beach


Howard Beach restaurant hosts movie shoot

| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE QUEENS COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

Howard Beach is going Hollywood.

A scene from a feature-length film named “Where Hearts Lie” was shot at Lenny’s Clam Bar on Cross Bay Boulevard on Monday.

At Lenny’s, the film crew was shooting the first date scene between the two lead characters. It took about three hours to shoot the scene, which included about 25 extras and the two main characters. It was a perfect local spot to film this scene, according to Peter Iengo, producer of the film.

“I love this location because there is so much history here,” said Iengo, who mentioned the actual clam bar may be featured in the movie. “It’s a great spot to shoot this scene.”

The movie is about a young up-and-coming real estate entrepreneur from East New York who is trying to gain support for the projects he is working on after he took over the real estate business from his father, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s.

He meets a young women while he is working on his projects, falls in love and has a child not knowing that his spouse is mentally unstable. Once he sees her instability he wants to break away and fights for the custody of his child, which becomes the main plot of the movie.

Only two scenes are filmed in Queens, one at Lenny’s and one at the Elixir Lounge in Jamaica. The rest will be filmed in Brooklyn and the total filming period is about three weeks. Hollywood stars Clifton Powell, from movies like “Next Friday” and “Ray,” and Malik Yuba, from “Cool Runnings,” make guest appearances in the film as well.

Once the post-production is finished, the film team will send the finished product to films festivals and shop it around to distribution companies.





Little North Pole Christmas celebration

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo by Vito Catalano

The North Pole came to Neponsit Beach for a night and the community celebrated Christmas in style.

Lights showered Joe Mure’s Neponsit Avenue home where he hosted his annual “Little North Pole” event to benefit juvenile diabetes on Saturday. A Christmas display surrounded the house and close to 5,000 people came to see the show, Mure said, including local elected officials, community leaders and thousands of borough residents.

The spectacle raised roughly $200,000 which will go directly to juvenile diabetes research.

Local joints such as VetroLenny’s Clam Bar and Lucy’s sausage and peppers donated heaps of food and local performers sang and danced through the night.

“We put smiles on every single face that was out there,” Mure said. “We put on a show that was both appropriate and great for both kids and adults.”

Then, Santa Claus came to town, riding a sled perched on a flatbed. Several emergency vehicles followed him with their sirens on and lights swirling.

“If you sat out there, you watched Santa Claus show up with the sirens and lights from the sky, you would have a memory of Christmas that will last you a lifetime,” Mure said.

The Little North Pole, a tradition held for nearly two decades, was put on hold last year after Sandy. But now, Mure said they are back, “stronger and brighter than ever.”

“We live in the heart of Rockaway. A year ago, we had nothing,” he said. “I think the kickoff of the Little North Pole was some sort of proof that we’re alive, we’re back.”



SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Cross Bay businesses make a comeback

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

After opening her two-floor hair salon and spa on Cross Bay Boulevard in July last year, Kimberly Langona was devastated when months later, it was partially destroyed.

Superstorm Sandy wiped out the entire first floor of Explosion Hair Styling, destroying equipment including hair dryers, electrical wiring, furniture and computers.

“Everything was lost,” said Langona, who rebuilt the entire salon and replaced all the equipment, which cost an estimated $150,000. “I couldn’t even tell you how hard it was to turn people away.”

Photo courtesy Kimberly Langona

Explosions Hair Styling was completely reconstructed after receiving massive damage from Sandy. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Full power was not restored to the building until December of last year, but Langona kept the salon and spa partially open by utilizing generators on the second floor, which is called Serenity Day Spa.

Now, a year later, business is buzzing at full capacity in the salon, much like other businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The Howard Beach commercial strip was under water after Sandy struck on October 29, and many businesses were forced to close. Some never reopened and others endured months of rebuilding before making a comeback.

“It was a mess,” said Joe De Candia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar. “You couldn’t fathom that much water.”

About four feet of water rushed into the restaurant, a 40-year staple in the community which is famous for serving numerous celebrities. The force of the flooding tossed tables and chairs outside the eatery and the garbage compactor was moved four blocks away. All the electrical equipment and wiring on the first floor was destroyed and the walls were soaked with water.

The restaurant lost power for about three weeks, but De Candia said they immediately started making repairs, which were paid for out-of-pocket. After the power returned it took another two weeks before they had a partial reopening.

“We were limping but we were able to reopen,” De Candia said.

But because of Sandy, Lenny’s was able to come back bigger and better. The gym next door, Better Bodies Fitness for Women, wasn’t able to rebuild so De Candia bought the property and expanded the restaurant and added a party room. He also shifted the bar to make it bigger.

Lenny’s wasn’t the only business that improved following the storm.
Scott Baron & Associates PC completely rebuilt the first floor, making it more functional and adding state of-the-art-technology.

The law office, which has been known as a community champion for nearly 20 years, finally held its grand reopening in June. Before the Howard Beach office reopened though, Scott Baron, the owner, said they moved operations to their office in Yonkers.

Baron is happy that the commercial strip is back again and said it’s a testament to the community sticking together.

“I saw a lot of store owners helping store owners and neighbors helping neighbors, because everyone was in the same boat,” Baron said. “The community really came together.”



Petco, other shops overcome Sandy setbacks

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

As the days and months since Sandy tick by, businesses in south Queens are rising from the rubble and returning to normalcy.

There was “paws” for applause on Saturday, April 27 as the Howard Beach Petco reopened. It had closed six months ago due to damage from Sandy.

Animals both big and small—all the way down to crickets—were evacuated before the storm, according to general manager Victor Aponte. He regularly communicated with his corporate affiliates. They decided to move the animals and their habitats to other locations in Queens and Brooklyn.

By the time flood waters from Sandy had ebbed back into Jamaica Bay, Petco and many other Cross Bay Boulevard businesses were considerably damaged. Aponte said floors had to be ripped up and the whole shop was inspected for mold.

Before the storm, there were 15 staffers at Petco, many of them living in the community. They were not only worried about damage to their homes and properties. They also had concerns about their jobs. However, staffers were relocated to other stores in Utica and College Point.

Now that the store has reopened, staff and community members couldn’t be happier, Aponte said.

Shoppers and their four-legged friends came to the store all day Saturday, making use of special bonuses and grabbing giveaways.

Rich Naimoli of Ozone Park said he had been shopping at another pet store on Cross Bay Boulevard, but it did not compare to the variety and help at Petco. He added that he and his wife, who own three dogs, were thrilled the Howard Beach pet shop was up and running again.

“I’m just happy they’re back,” Naimoli said.

Aponte said while Petco was part of a corporate chain, he and the staff have tried to make it a community place where residents can get one-on-one help. There are now 17 staff members in all. The reopening, he said, was another step toward normalcy half a year after Sandy devastated the area.

“It’s just exciting to get the neighborhood back to where we were before the hurricane,” Aponte said. “We really feel we’re a neighborhood store.”

According to State Senator Joseph Addabbo’s office, eight businesses are still closed on Cross Bay Boulevard. Some were able to bounce back just weeks after floodwater caused thousands of dollars worth of damage. For others, it’s been a major struggle.

It remains to be seen whether 7-Eleven and Jennifer Convertibles will reopen, However, Cross Bay Diner is slated to come back.

Joe DeCandia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar, was back in business less than a month after the storm. He worked practically around the clock on repairs. Now, he said, the popular eatery along with most of the boulevard is in good shape.

“We’re doing pretty good,” he said. “We’re up and running. We’re doing okay, thank God.”



Businesses of south Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Though neighborhoods change, over the years these businesses have been the backbone of the community.

Auction Outlet of Queens

95-04 Liberty Avenue, Ozone Park


Open since 1968, Auction Outlet of Queens, in Ozone Park, serves the community for all home decorating needs.

Founded and still run by the Leistein family, Auction Outlet sells home hardware goods including handles, countertops and faucets.

“We’re a retail business that started selling paneling and molding. We expanded to doors and home decorating,” said Arlene Kuchcicki, manager and bookkeeper. “We’re the largest selection of tiles in New York as well and I’m not lying. There are so many tiles here.”

They carry all types of tiles from ceramic to marble, along with imported tiles from Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

“We mostly sell kitchen cabinets and tiles,” she said. “We’re known for our extraordinary prices for cabinets.”

Though they work with many contractors and builders, homeowners make up the larger portion of their business. Auction Outlet has experienced design specialists who are hired to help create any customized kitchen, along with other salespeople who are trained to help with all the details and measurements of any home project.

“We’ve been up and down in the past 10 to 15 years but we’re stable now and plan to expand in business,” said Kuchcicki.

Auction Outlet is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

D&H Autobody

109-14 Atlantic Avenue

South Richmond Hill


Childhood friends Bruno Loia and Guy Pierno were working at State Farm insurance in 1988 when they decided to buy D&H Autobody.

The autobody was established in 1946 by Don and Harry Ezzo, who ran it until they were in their 70s and Loia and Pierno took over.

The two pals had always worked on cars and to this day keep their love alive by providing the best care they can give. In business now for nearly a quarter of a century, they have brought in many loyal customers. “Basically, we rely on word of mouth,” Loia said. “Some accounts have stuck with us for years. We work for out customers, we represent out customers.

In the shop, there is constant communication between every mechanic or specialist — to ensure each car is worked on with clarity and quality.

“My guys are not under pressure,” he said. “There’s no rush to put a car together. That’s pretty much our formula.”

Lenny’s Clam Bar

161-03 Cross Bay Boulevard


Joe De Candia, who inherited Lenny’s Clam Bar from his parents, says the well-known establishment on Cross Bay Boulevard tries to keep with original recipes while keeping up with the times.

“It’s passed down through the generations,” said De Cadia.

Established by De Candia’s parents in 1974, Lenny’s has become a standout in the community — and outside of it, too.

Whether you’re a celebrity, waiting for a delayed plane at JFK or just out in the neighborhood, Lenny’s is a hot spot for great clams and great atmosphere. Funny girl and Queens native Fran Drescher, Aldo the Giant and a number of athletes have frequented the Cross Bay clam bar.

“I think it’s location,” said De Candia in reference to what makes Lenny’s so popular. “We’re a landmark here in the area. We give a good meal and we’re reasonably priced.”

While Lenny’s gets a lot of attention from people outside of Howard Beach, De Candia is invested in the community. Having lived in the neighborhood for 49 years, going to school and raising his kids here, he has tried to give back to the area in a number of ways. He has actively taken part in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and organizes an annual walk in Howard Beach to raise money and awareness for the disease.

Molbegott Hardware

109-20 Liberty Avenue

Richmond Hill, N.Y. 11419

718 843-4460

What Molbegott Hardware offers that big-box chains do not is quality assurance and great prices.

This is how second-generation store owner Martin Molbegott describes his shop, which has been serving Richmond Hill since 1926.

Molbegott Hardware was established by Martin’s parents on Liberty Avenue and over time the shop expanded next door. In these two locations, the store not only sells hardware, but home and kitchen appliances and plumbing supplies. Martin has now run the store for more than 60 years, having taken over after his father passed away.

Molbegott said the shop has retained customers because of the care its staff has given to ensure the buyer gets not only the best price, but all the help that’s needed. He said the mission has always been to put the customer first.

“We do a service beyond anyone else,” he said. “We do services no other store in the neighborhood can imagine.”

Part of this service is teaching customers about each item they buy, or any repairs they might be doing. This type of customer care, Molbegott said, is not offered by any of the big-name hardware stores.

“We explain each and every step when we sell something,” he said.


164-26 Cross Bay Boulevard


After a long absence on Cross Bay Boulevard, Sapienza’s is back and the neighborhood couldn’t be happier.

The eatery, located just before the bridge to Broad Channel, is full of customers telling the staff how happy they are that Sapienza’s is back in the neighborhood.

Owner Angelo Mugnolo originally ran the delicatessen a little further north on Cross Bay before selling to a new owner in 2009. The new owner, he said, and another owner after that did not have the same success and Mugnolo decided to come back.

After eight months of remodeling the new site, Mugnolo and co-owner Anthony Calore reopened Sapienza’s on September 24 and the neighborhood can’t be happier.

The two have years of experience with the neighborhood and food.

While the owners tout that a customer can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner for an entire week and never get the same thing, it may not be what they’re most famous for. Sapienza sells around 2,500 pounds of pastrami a week and goes by the motto, “The Best Pastrami in Queens.” The mouth watering pastrami is a favorite amongst the diners who come in during lunchtime and tell the owners how happy they are that Sapienza’s is back.

Schmidt’s Candy

94-15 Jamaica Avenue, Woodhaven


Though much of Woodhaven has changed since the mid-1920s when it opened up, Schmidt’s Candy is a step back into the era of wooden rails on the el train.

With tiling and candy cases nearly 100 years old, the store, as current shop owner Margie Schmidt says, is a step back in time.

Most of the candy is baked right in the shop, Schmidt said, and most of the recipes came from Germany with her grandfather, who founded the store. Margie still makes her caramel on a marble table in the basement of the small shop, still quietly tucked under the elevated rails of the “J” train on Jamaica Avenue. In the back of the store, she bakes her chocolate.

Because of the need to make all the traditional sweets, Schmidt’s is closed during July and August. On a recent fall day, Margie described the “cool, crisp, dry weather” as the ideal baking conditions.

Today the shop’s biggest times are seasonal and holidays. But as regulars come in for their Easter, Halloween or Christmas candy, Margie says she always reminds them the shop is open.

To the best of Margie’s knowledge, she is the last candy shop in the borough where the sweet, heavenly chocolate is made right in the store.

“I think I can say I’m the only homemade candy store in Queens,” she said.

Villa Russo

118-16 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill


Villa Russo, located at 118-16 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill, is a catering establishment that was first started in 1954 and hosts wedding receptions, birthdays, anniversaries, engagement parties, showers, christening celebrations, Communion celebrations, reunions and other festivities.

Featuring Italian dining, the location itself offers three different rooms in which to accommodate events. The Palace, as its title suggests, is very elegant with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and balconies spanning overhead. It can seat up to 275 guests. Then there is the Grotto, which is a little cozier and seats up to 175. The Party Room, seating up to 65, is a narrower dining hall complemented by long tables, archways and a stone floor. On top of the three rooms, Villa Russo will also come to you with its outside catering service. Each option comes with a variety of menu choices, the details for which can be found at villarussocatering.com.

Euro Cup nets crowds for Queens bars & restaurants

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Maria Moreira sat at the bar of Lenny’s Clam Bar in Howard Beach and watched in silence as Spain continued to score — and score — on Italy to take the 2012 Euro Cup.

A soccer fan, she said that many Americans don’t enjoy the game as much.

During big tournaments, however, restaurant owners and Queens residents say everyone starts to become a fan.

Joe De Candia, who owns Lenny’s, said there had been consistent crowds around the bar area during Euro Cup games.

After Spain scored its second goal Sunday, July 1, the mood died down “like a balloon deflated,” he said.

Across the street, Saffron restaurant had two Spanish flags flying in front and a sign inviting customers to come watch the game. Inside, only one person sat at the bar.

Herbert Duarte, Saffron’s manager, said that there too there had been crowds.

The cultural celebration that is soccer spans throughout Queens.

As Italy defeated Germany on June 28, German fans at Zum Stammtisch in Glendale donned black or white jerseys with names like “Klose,” “Ballack,” or “Schweinsteiger” on the back.

Werner Lehrner, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother Hans, said fans had been coming regularly for games — especially when Germany was playing.

“We’ve been getting 80 to 100 people,” he said.

Zum Stammtisch’s back room was converted into a viewing area during games with a 10-foot projector screen. As Germany slowly began to fall apart in the semi-finals, that back room was filled with sighs and frustration.

Despite their win over Germany, Azzuri fans were let down by the 4-0 loss to Spain — which claimed its third consecutive major title.