The Lemon Ice King of Corona, during U.S. Open, is the real king of Queens

Since 1944 people have been going to The Lemon Ice King of Corona for their favorite ices on a hot summer day. They started with two flavors, lemon and pineapple, and now they serve more than 50 flavors. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

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The Lemon Ice King of Corona has reigned over hot Queens summers since 1944, but it is not until the U.S. Open weeks when it's bathed in a royal coronation.

Owners of the shop, just a walk from the Arthur Ashe Stadium and with roughly 50 flavors, expect it to be flush with added crowds. They add more staffers for each shift during the Open, and plan to sell 2,500 more gallons -- or 100 tubs -- of the roughly 50 ice flavors made on site during the two weeks of play, said Michael Zampino, a co-owner.

The start of the Open is signaled by black and silver sport utility vehicles rolling down 108th Street. Then, Zampino will say, "The U.S. Open's here, let's get ready, guys."

"We get a nice big crowd over there for the U.S. Open," Zampino said. Often a nostalgic old-timer or a newcomer eager to try the famous lemon ices will stop by, and say: "I went to the Open, and I had to make sure I came here."

"You always hear, 'My father used to take me here, my grandfather took me here.' Now they're taking their kids or grandkids here," said Zampino, who started out as a counter kid at age 16. He and business partner Vincent Barbaccia of Smithtown bought the place from the original stewards, the Benfaremo family, in 1993, Zampino said. "Generation to generation they all have a story -- I used to live in the neighborhood, now I moved out to Long Island, but I still come here."

Joe DiStefano, an East Meadow native and food writer living in Queens, said outside the store, "The entire world comes to the Open. The entire world comes here."

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Sy Tuchband and his wife, Julie, had arrived for a scoop before the evening matches Tuesday afternoon, an Open ritual for the Millburn, New Jersey, couple who have been coming here for 20 years. "Just killing some time," said Sy, on the particularly hot afternoon.

"It's a part of being here," added Tuchband, who settled on tangerine while his wife left with cups of mint chocolate chip and peanut butter. "A little different twist on dessert."

Michael Dunne, of Forest Hills, came to cool off from the heat in between day and night matches. "It's one of these things that are slowly dying and going away, and I try my best to support it."

The shop, with a silver diner-like exterior and bins of pistachio nuts inside, has changed little, save for Twitter and Instagram accounts opened in recent years, as well as a few new flavors such as Oreo and root beer. Lemon, still, is tops.

"Top shelf," said Barbaccia. "You're not getting water and coloring and sugar. We still squeeze lemons; we still squeeze oranges."

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