Victoria’s Secrets: How sweet it is dining in a special place!

The new Vivo! restaurant staff
Photos by Victoria Schneps

At a favorite Bayside restaurant, the baton has been passed to new owners who have taken the helm with great experience and a passion for the business. Vivo! Is the new name of what was once Vivaldi, and now will feature Mediterranean cuisine.

Sadly, after the Parks Department franchise property contract was not renewed by the professional restauranteur Joe Franco, the location at the foot of the Throgs Neck Bridge on the property of the Clearview Golf Course has changed hands multiple times. Unfortunately, no group has been able to replicate the success he had when he ran the eatery as Caffé on the Green. But, I think with a new contract, the current operators have the potential to create a destination location for all of us.

Vivo! — the former Vivaldi, the former Patricia’s, the former Valentino’s — has a new team, Paul  and Gieto Nikaj, who between them, have 100 years of experience in the restaurant and catering business. Paul has been operating the five-star Battery Gardens catering hall and they have years of experience also at the Waldorf Astoria and some of the most successful restaurants in Manhattan.  

Under their contract with the Parks Department, the new operators will be able to create a larger space for catering, a problem for all the previous lessees. Paul has a plan to put a glass dome with a retractable roof over a catering space, creating a feel like Tavern on the Green in Central Park.

I visited the restaurant two days after the takeover and I was so happy to see that many of the best staff have been retained.

The kitchen is being ripped out to provide the new chef Thomas Nasti, who ran top dining spots in Manhattan, with a kitchen that he believes will deliver five-star food to his diners. Although many of the staff have stayed, the new manager is Stephen Panagiotopoulos who is devoted to bringing the finest service to Bayside as he has to many fine Manhattan restaurants.

“We are renovating from the roof to the air conditioning and even enhancing the gardens around the property,” he explained. Every detail from the glasses to the silverware to the dishes used to deliver the Mediterranean grill’s menu is being enhanced.

Chef Thomas Nasti featuring his shrimp saganaki

For dinner, I enjoyed eating my favorite branzino cooked to perfection and a new dish, the spectacularly mouthwatering shrimp saganaki. The perfectly cooked shrimp are prepared in a freshly made tomato sauce blended with feta cheese for an explosion of flavors that I savored, and all at reasonable prices!

With an extensive wine menu, the bar had my favorite aged bourbon too.

The new owners/operators promise every ingredient will be the best the market offers.  

With their experience and know-how in operating top-drawer dining and catering operations, the community should be in for a first class operation at the new Vivo!

A night with the stars of the unique Bethpage Air Show

Jonah with the Thunderbird fliers

With eight-year-old Jonah, I went to the enormously popular Bethpage Air Show VIP party the night before the pilots took off and performed over Jones Beach Saturday and Sunday. The party was held at the unique Cradle of Aviation Museum near the stunning, newly renovated Nassau Coliseum.

It made my heart swell when Jonah said, “Grandma, this is the happiest day of my life!” He had just met and gotten the autographs of the stars of the air show, the United States Air Force Thunderbird fliers. Then he went upstairs and played with the multiple historic video games set up and made operational by the museum. He was enchanted, mesmerized, and we stayed until we were forced to leave when we were told the museum was closing .  

At the museum party, Bethpage Federal Credit Union hosted over 800 smiling people who were ready to celebrate the weekend’s festivities, and did they ever! Even the weather cooperated in making memories.  

“On the Map” – a Stirring, Spirited Movie

Dani Menkin, the director

Life takes me on many journeys and this weekend my friend Jeff Weisenfeld invited me to see a showing of “On the Map,” a movie that documents the stunning victory of the 1977 Maccabi basketball team that won the world championship for tiny Israel just a short time after the infamous Yom Kippur War, and the scandal of the resignation of beloved prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Dani Menkin was there for the after party as a bonus, as was the charismatic captain of the 1977 team, Tal Brody. He had captured the imagination of the world leading his team and prophetically said of the underdog team, “Israel is now on the map, not just in sports, but in everything.”

See this fabulous film. You too will love it, laugh and cry and never forget its powerful message that dreams can come true.

Tal Brody (at right) with Jeff Weisenfeld and his daughter


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