69-80 Grand Avenue
Service here at this rather spacious CVS is brisk and friendly, and whenever the lines get a little long up front, they’re usually pretty quick to remedy that, something that’s greatly appreciated come holiday time. If you’re still looking for a last-minute gift idea, you should definitely check out the wonders they can work with your family photos here. But especially if you’re looking for that one last greeting card, those last couple of yards of gift wrap, gift tags, etc. – well, folks, you’re definitely in the right place! (Our personal favorites, by the way? The talking “Ho, Ho, Ho” Santa gift bag, and the reindeer-themed fUNZIP Gift Box from HALLMARK!)
STOP & SHOP
8989 Union Turnpike
Regular readers of these pages know what fans we are of this simply super STOP & SHOP on Union Turnpike right on the Forest Hills/Glendale border. In fact, you can get just about anything you want here – it’s practically an entire city. Their bakery section is as good as any neighborhood bakery – except it’s right there! And their deli section is as good (actually better!) than most neighborhood delis – except it’s right there! Looking for some flowers? Soda? Pasta? A DVD? Some last-minute toys for the kids? JETS-GIANTS paraphernalia? It’s ALL-RIGHT-HERE! So are you starting to appreciate the one-stop shopping idea that has cemented this chain’s reputation? It’s called STOP & SHOP, sure, but what it really ought to be called… STOP & STAY A LONG TIME & SHOP!
THE BOTTLE SHOPPE
353 Graham Avenue
Located just down the block from the heavily trafficked Graham Avenue L-train stop, THE BOTTLE SHOPPE is fast developing an excellent reputation for being the perfect place to head to grab a nice bottle of wine before your dinner party (whether you’re on the way to the subway, or actually just got out of it). Or you can get those mini-bottles of Patron tequila for the more discerning of your party hosts. Perhaps a little brandy? Quite a few to choose from here. And not only that, but once you get on the mailing list, count yourself lucky to take part in the very regular Friday evening wine-tastings that THE BOTTLE SHOPPE seems to hold on a much more frequent basis than most establishments of this nature. And that’s a good thing. (FYI, THE BOTTLE SHOPPE have just opened up a second location along even-hipper-than-Graham Bedford Avenue, 301 Bedford to be exact.)
Middle Village/Rego Park
63-88 Woodhaven Boulevard
If the gorgeous Christmas trees adorning the roof aren’t your first clue – you should know by now that longtime Middle Village standout LONDON LENNIE’S really goes all out for the holidays. Got some friends in town over the break, or just looking to enjoy the leisure time that comes with this time of the year? We can’t recommend LONDON LENNIE’S heartily enough. The family business is almost 50 years old at this point, and second-generation proprietor Leslie Barnes has definitely done his Dad proud in maintaining the loftiest of standards, such as the finest of fresh seafood, and the ultimate in customer service. As you sample some of the very best Catfish (a bourbon hollandaise sauce), Branzini (shaved fennel), or Monkfish (“Osso Buco”-style!) around, you’re always treated special here – like family, even. (And by the way, LONDON LENNIE’S has an exemplary Raw Bar, too – one whose offerings change daily, and can be perused online at their rather appetizing website, www.LondonLennies.com.)
Long Island City
46-35 Vernon Boulevard
We’ve long been big fans of the Cerbone Family here and their absolutely unparalleled Jackson Avenue restaurant MANDUCATI’S, one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, bar none. Consequently, we can’t think of anyone whose continuing success we’d be rooting for more than daughter Gianna, who’s set out on her own to introduce her heritage and culinary expertise to an entirely new generation. MANDUCATI’S RUSTICA first wowed the neighborhood with its assortment of savory panini, brick oven pizzas, and unforgettable desserts (especially their home-made gelato!). But now that the nicely appointed brick dining room is open, too, here’s where you ought to head for the very best of traditional Italian cooking, all adorned with a red sauce that is simply unforgettable. Maybe it’s Eggplant Rollatini that’s a personal favorite, or home-made pasta dishes… Manicotti, Fettucine, Pappardelle. If you’re smart, you’ll go with the flow here, and definitely lean on Gianna to make a recommendation or two. (By the way, while MANDUCATI’S RUSTICA does not yet have a liquor license, HUNTER’S POINT WINES & SPIRITS is right down the block, and will even help with recommendations, if you tell them what you’re having!)
SUDDEN IMPULSE HAIRSTYLING & BARBER SHOP
64-70 Dry Harbor Road
This is the time of year you definitely want to look your best, and husband and wife Ralph and Berte Nisonov have been dedicating themselves for more than five years now to help us do just that. Berte caters to the women, and Ralph the men (he used to work at nearby MICHAEL’S) and have in a short time developed an incredibly loyal following – both young and old – who appreciate not only the personal attention here, but the relatively inexpensive prices, too. The secret to the couple’s success? Very simply, they always do right by their customers. “If you don’t do a good job,” says Ralph matter of factly, “they’re not going to come back.” But we’re pretty sure that you will, once you give them a try here!
THE SHOPS AT ATLAS PARK
8000 Cooper Avenue
I have no idea why this store is called “THE FAIR” – it really should be called “THE EXCELLENT”! The sign outside promises “Everything For The Home,” and you know what, browse around here a little bit, and that very well might be the case. In fact, once you walk past the cookware and glassware and frames and all, your mouth will absolutely drop open when you catch a glimpse of an entire second floor devoted to bedding, draperies, etc.! Anyway, if you’re looking to host a little holiday party this weekend, why not head in here first and check out some of our personal favorites – like that LUMINARC set of 12 glasses (we loved the Stripes and the Dots) for just 19.99. Or maybe a red PAULA DEEN 12-piece cookware set for your dinner party? How about some entertaining serve-ware from the fabulous LENOX GROUP? And of course, they’ve got a wide variety of all things CUISINART throughout the store, too. Hey, by the way, if coffee’s where it’s at for you, make sure you engage the staff in a discussion of the latest pod technology to hit said market, as perpetuated by NESPRESSO, KEURIG, TASSIMO and others. (Oh, one last thing, if your holiday gathering is perchance football-related, they’ve also got these pretty charming little GIANTS-logo and JETS-logo themed snowmen to get you in the spirit.)
WINES & LIQUORS
69-15 Grand Avenue
The motto here is “Good Prices, Great Service, Fine Spirits” – and you know what, it’s all true. If you’ve got a holiday party coming up, a New Year’s gathering perhaps, make sure you stop in and check out the excellent selection at this highly-underrated establishment. Well-stocked with traditional fare like a RUFFINO Riserva Ducale Chianti ($24.99) or a BOLLA Pinot Grigio ($13.99), MASPETH DISCOUNT WINES & LIQUORS also offers a number of interesting wines for just $7.99 a bottle – and from a pretty eclectic variety at that – like, for example, a semi-sweet Merlot made by EGRI (Hungary), or an intriguing Malbec (Argentina) produced by DANTE ROBINO. (They’ll even make a gift basket for you, if you’re thinking along those lines.) And if, on the other hand, you’re really looking to make a statement and splurge a little here, make sure you take the time to visit the back wall of the “wine cellar,” where some of their choicest offerings are. It’s pretty impressive!
FORTUNATO BROS. PASTICCERIA
289 Manhattan Avenue
Even if you don’t end up buying anything here (and what a foolish decision that would be!), FORTUNATO BROS. is one of the must-visit destinations in this happening Williamsburg neighborhood, especially during Christmas and Easter. Certainly the fact that there are lines out the door this time of year has got to mean something, no? Rows and rows of some of the best holiday treats you will ever taste – pignoli cookies, Napoleons, cannoli, sfogliatelle, butter cookies, marzipan, you name it. And even if you’re not going to be buying a box of pastry for someone special in your life, well why not at least grab a chair and try an espresso or a cappuccino or something, and soak in the holiday atmosphere. Because once you do, and especially if you live close by, you will definitely have found a new home.