In October, John Gavaris became the new owner of the restaurant, which has operated at 100-18 Queens Boulevard for the past 40 years. Gavaris was born and raised in Queens, the father of two teenage children, and holds a business and marketing degree.
“Our goals are to offer fine southern Italian cuisine with the flair of the best pizza in New York City,” he explained. “Primadonna will continue to offer phenomenal hospitality and service to her customers.”
Patrons will feel at home in the charming ambiance of Primadonna. Fresh pizza being prepared behind the counter leads to an earth-tone dining area with wooden tables, subdued lighting, brick walls, and traditional Italian lithographs set apart with art by a local resident.
Since 2008, Primadonna was owned by Lisa Drakakis Logoteta.
“Lisa has done an amazing job in branding Primadonna and invested lots of love”, Gavaris said. “She transformed it into a fine dining restaurant and pizzeria and accomplished it on her own. When she passed the baton over, I was able to absorb that energy and give love back to the community.”
In an era of chain stores taking the place of small businesses, sometimes due to rent increases or owners facing retirement and children with little interest in acquiring the family business, Primadonna proves that a restaurant can change hands and maintain tradition.
“Forest Hills has been built from mom-and-pop shops, and the specialty behind the personal appreciation is what people like,” Gavaris said. “Owners understand the mentality of providing 100 percent quality every day for their customers in order to survive.”
At age 12, Gavaris began working at Vinny’s Pizzeria in Whitestone.
“I showed the owner that, even at a young age, I was able to manage his restaurant, and I had a passion ever since,” he said. “My family and I have been in the business most of our lives, with establishments in Manhattan, New Jersey, and Greece.”
Four months into his new-but-familiar pursuit, Gavaris is already a committed community figure.
“I start working at 5 a.m. and finish around midnight daily,” he said. “As a sole proprietor, you have to take care of Primadonna like it’s one of your kids.”
Although costs have generally increased, price points remain consistent.
“We offer a generous serving at a reasonable price,” Gavaris said. “Lisa established a loyal customer base as a result. From 2008 until present, a customer ordered the same meal 14,000 times, which means penne alla vodka five to seven times a week!”
Among the menu highlights are baked ziti Sicilian, fettuccine alfredo, and penne ala vodka. Hot antipasto is a signature appetizer, while Friday and Saturday specialties include fresh fish, with everything from bronzini to seafood fra diavolo.
A zesty olive oil balsamic garlic house dressing has been called “the best in town” by patrons
“We don’t make vats of food, but head to the marketplace daily to make sure all of our products are fresh,” said Gavaris. “Our patrons say that our margherita and Sicilian pizzas are to die for. All eggplant dishes and chicken dishes are signature dishes, and our homemade meatballs are often complimented.”
Primadonna offers catering and hosts events, ranging from birthday parties to retirement dinners.
“Children as young as age three to seniors hold their events here,” Gavaris said. “There’s also a group of seven women who celebrate their birthdays with us.”
Gavaris believes customization is what will keep Primadonna’s doors open for another 40 years
“We have schools that call us asking if we can give students pizza the way they want it,” he said. “Then we prepare it where every pizza will have its own expression.”