BY JON CRONIN
Following a light remodeling, the Astor Room at Kaufman Astoria Studios has reopened as George’s—a renaming that honors the late George Kaufman, who opened the Astoria film studio in 1980 and died in February.
John Nikci, the restaurant’s manager, said that the owners did “a little refreshing,” adding that “it was major, but just cosmetic things.”
He noted that the site’s owners refurbished the floors, but left the 100-year-old tiles and original marble staircase that made the former Paramount Studio’s commissary so elegant alone. One of the most noticeable changes is that the windows have been changed to allow more light into the room.
Nikci said he also added six-foot movie posters from the 1920s and 1930s.
“It looks really, really cool,” he said.
Nikci added that he wanted to bring a 1920s and 1930s vibe back to the place and give it “that speakeasy feeling.”
He noted that Kaufman loved the commissary so much that he opened it to the public seven years ago as the Astor Room. But he died during the remodeling.
“Our intention was just a remodel, but then Mr. K—that’s what we called him—passed away and we decided to rename it after him,” said Nikci. “We have a really cool, long bar with over 120 different whiskeys.”
He added that the beers on tap are all from Queens breweries and the coffee is also Queens made.
Nikci said that he also upgraded the eatery’s menu with new dishes, including the Spaghetti Valentino, which is named after famed silent film actor Rudolph Valentino. Nikci noted that Valentino would often go to the commissary and make his own six-foot pasta and a sauce with red wine. Valentino would then challenge people to roll one six-foot piece of pasta without breaking it. According to the story, Valentino would often invite women to join him in drinking copious amounts of wine as they cooked together.
He noted that George’s dish is not made with as much wine, but it is “a unique kind of dish that happens to be delicious.” And it is indeed made with six-foot long pieces of pasta.
“[Valentino]was a playboy and sex symbol and there were all kinds of stories about his affairs,” said Nikci.
Nikci noted that there is a large photo of Valentino from 1924, which was during prohibition.
“If you look closely, there are glasses on the table and I’m sure those glasses didn’t have milk in them,” he said.
The restaurant was originally the commissary for Paramount Pictures in the 1920s and 1930s. But the military took over before World War II and it became an officer’s club until the 1970s. Then, Kaufman opened his studio in 1980, and it became the commissary again until he opened the Astor Room in 2011.