Photo by Bianca Fortis
By Bianca Fortis

A Maspeth favorite is back.

Nearly 2 1/2 years later — and after the grand opening was postponed a few times — O’Neill’s is officially open for business.

The restaurant, at 64-21 53rd Drive, was razed by a five-alarm grease fire in May 2011 to the dismay of both the eatery’s owner, George O’Neill, and the surrounding community.

Originally founded in 1928 as the Plateau Tavern by O’Neill’s father, the restaurant became a mainstay in the community.

Immediately after it burned down, O’Neill made the decision to rebuild. Despite some setbacks and issues with construction, the restaurant held its grand opening Friday afternoon.

Members of Rescue Co. 4 presented O’Neill a commemorative plaque containing the flag they had removed from in front of the restaurant the night it was destroyed. It was all that remained in the rubble, according to O’Neill.

“It’s beautiful,” he said about the plaque.

Rescue Co. 4 Capt. Joe Gandiello said the firefighters held onto the flag so they could later return it to its owner.

“It’s a great day,” Gandiello said. “I’m glad we’re here.”

Tara O’Neill Pyle, O’Neill’s daughter, said the event was exciting for the family.

“It’s a wonderful feeling,” she said.

She said the restaurant is already booked for events into 2014. Members of the community often hold christenings, birthday parties and other events there.

“That’s the part we’re nervous about,” she said. “You think, ‘Did they forget you?’ But obviously not.”

Earlier in the month the family held a soft opening — they opened the door of the restaurant on a whim to see what would happen. Immediately the restaurant was packed, they said. Events were booked within that first week.

Gandiello said O’Neill’s is a good place to stop by on the way home to catch a game.

“It’s part of the neighborhood fabric,” he said. “It’s a landmark. I don’t even live here and I know that.”

Frankie Neuwirth, a Middle Village resident and a longtime patron of O’Neill’s, said he was happy to see it open again.

He ate dinner at the restaurant as soon as it reopened. He described watching New York Rangers games in the packed bar and said he expects to dine there often.

“I’ve been coming here for 30 years,” he said. “We used to have the best times here.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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