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Middle Village: A neighborhood with quiet appeal

Middle Village is known for its cemeteries.

Middle Village is known for its cemeteries. Photo Credit: Alka Nag

Despite its central location in Queens, not too many outsiders trickle into Middle Village. The neighborhood sits at the end of the M train, mostly fenced in by sprawling cemeteries such as St. John and Lutheran.

Due to that seclusion, it’s a tranquil, family-friendly neighborhood where people are accustomed to seeing the same faces. Still, new mom-and-pop businesses continue to sprout up on the neighborhood’s lively main drag, Metropolitan Avenue. Many are run by the Irish, Slavic and Colombian residents who have immigrated to the area in recent years.

The neighborhood was settled in 1816 by people of English descent. It received its name in the early 19th century due to its midpoint location between the then cities of Williamsburg and Jamaica.

The area was mostly barren until 1852. At that time, burials were banned in Manhattan, so churches began purchasing farmland in Queens to lay the dead to rest. After the Civil War, Middle Village largely was populated by German immigrants, with Italians joining their ranks in the 20th century.

Today, Middle Village retains a small-town flavor and the number of residents totals slightly more than 30,000.

“It’s still got this old-world Main Street charm,” said lifetime resident Vanessa Reyes, who recently opened a boutique with a friend on Metropolitan Avenue. 

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To eat

With a few exceptions, most eateries are located on Metropolitan Avenue. While chain restaurants have trickled in, mom-and-pops still dominate the area, largely reflecting its Italian-American population.

Uvarara Vineria and Ristorio
79-28 Metropolitan Ave., 718-894-0052
This rustic restaurant — dimly lit by candles and furnished with dark wood — has a slightly monastic feel to it. Family-run, it arguably serves some of New York’s best homemade gnocchi.

Toyo Japanese Cuisine
73-06 Metropolitan Ave., 718-894-8880
Spacious, with long, hard-paneled floors and mellow lighting, this place scores major ambiance points. The many creative concoctions — such as the King Kong Roll with asparagus, caviar, shrimp, Merlot sauce and spicy mayo — may seem suspicious, but they definitely don’t disappoint.

Carlos Pizza
74-02 Metropolitan Ave., 718-894-7915
Beneath a long glass counter, an array of square-shaped pizza slices tempt visitors with their fresh mozzarella and veggie toppings. A local favorite, Carlos is always bustling on weekdays, but that doesn’t interrupt the friendly service.

To play

The laid-back atmosphere of the neighborhood lends itself to dive bars, where bartenders often are on a first-name basis with local patrons.

Pat’s Sports Bar
73-13 Metropolitan Ave., 718-894-0907
Whether bargoers are gathered for karaoke, a darts league or just downing their favorite brew, evenings are always festive at this locals’ spot.

Kelly’s Pub
82-11 Eliot Ave., 718-476-8444
Opened by a father-and-son team in 1989, this colorful bar is brimming with good brews. The outdoor patio, which resembles the courtyard of a small township, can hold large groups.

To shop

It’s not hard to buy local in Middle Village, where the majority of stores are run by neighborhood residents.

Bauer’s Bake Shop
64-59 Dry Harbor Rd., 718-326-1579
This corner shop is jam-packed with German goodies and constantly filled with the aroma of fresh cookies. It’s a tasty trace of the immigrant group that dominated Middle Village at the beginning of the 20th century.

Stella Gialla
73-18 Metropolitan Ave., 718-326-0009
Opened by a pair of local friends; expect to find a flowery summer dress alongside salt-and-pepper-shaker timers at this colorful boutique that carries creative clothing, accessories and interesting knickknacks, most of them under $50.

Gabriella Polish-American Deli
74-17 Metropolitan Ave., 718-416-2225  
You may not have a craving for pirogi dumplings stuffed with sauerkraut and mushrooms now, but try one from Gabriella, a small shop rife with traditional Polish products, and that could change very soon.

Fun Stuff
75-22 Metropolitan Ave., 718-326-1345
Dieters beware: this festive mom-and-pop shop contains 3,000 treats molded out of chocolate, shaped for just about any occasion. There’s also an array of gift baskets, such as a Father’s Day creation fashioned with a container of beer nuts and a spatula.

To see

Frank T. Lang Building
69th Street at Metropolitan Avenue
Built in 1904 by a mausoleum manufacturer, the building is as spooky as its neighboring cemeteries. Gargoyles are embedded in the top rim, and a cat with a curved tail appears to be guarding the main sign.

Juniper Valley Park
80th Street, Juniper Boulevard North and South
At this grassy, 55-acre park, you’ll find cheery locals playing roller hockey, soccer and bocce ball. In the spring, flowering apple and cherry trees dot the park’s borders.

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Franceso Cracchioco, 62, emigrated from Italy to Middle Village 13 years ago with his family.

What attracts people to the neighborhood? It’s really peaceful and beautiful, especially in the summertime when people play soccer in the park. It’s also close to Forest Hills, which has really high-quality schools.

How has this neighborhood changed over the years? It hasn’t changed much. I’ve lived here for 13 years and it’s still the same.

What would you change if you could? There would be more — and [faster] — transportation options into Manhattan. A lot of people commute to work, xand it takes over an hour.

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