By rich bockmann
Just like the locals who used eat there, the restaurateurs currently resurrecting the Bayside Diner on Northern Boulevard have an appreciation for the establishment’s history and place in the community.
“I think it’s been there for 45 years, since back when it was called Penny’s,” said Antonia Katsihtis, whose husband, Spiros, and brother-in-law, Elias, purchased the lease for the vacant building earlier this year after the diner closed in August.
Katsihtis, who lives in Whitestone, said the family has more than 30 years experience in the restaurant business as the owners of the Silver Star on the East Side in Manhattan and the Veranda, a bistro-style eatery, on Northern Boulevard.
She said she knows how prominent a place the Bayside Diner occupied in the neighborhood.
“When people would ask us where the Veranda is, we’d tell them it’s next to the Bayside Diner,” she said.
The building is currently undergoing a complete renovation — from the basement to the kitchen to the dining room — that Katsihtis said will give the diner a more modern atmosphere.
The old sunken smoking section will be integrated with the rest of the dining room, which will feature doors that can be used to section off an area for private events.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will all be on the menu, which will consist of traditional diner staples such as seafood, steaks and chops — but all with a modern twist.
The new and improved Bayside Diner is tentatively scheduled to open sometime in either late spring or early summer and will serve customers from 6 a.m. until midnight, with the possibility of operating 24 hours on the weekends.
When it does open, the diner will need to be fully staffed, and that means jobs for members of the community.
“When we opened the Veranda, we wanted to keep employees in the community,” said Katsihtis. “For a full-functioning diner there are a lot of positions — a lot of hours.”
She said that after the Bayside Diner closed, the property owners were looking to keep it as a diner in order to continue the family’s legacy. ï»¿Katsihtis said she thinks many diners shut their doors because the owners are getting older and their children do not want to take over. She sees the Bayside Diner as an opportunity to carry on her family’s tradition.
“So many diners are closing right now. What people are used to is no longer there, so we’re excited to be part of something that’s been around for such a long time,” she said. “Bayside Diner’s been a landmark as long as I’ve been in the area, and we wanted to keep that familiarity. It’s a place where people get together.”
And Katsihtis knows a thing or two about getting together at the Bayside Diner.
“We’re very local. My kids go to school in this community. We used to go to the Bayside Diner,” she said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.