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On-street dining makes a comeback in Valley Stream

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On Friday and Saturday evenings from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. through the summer, part of Rockaway Avenue will be closed off from traffic and open to restaurant-goers for on-street dining.

Outdoor dining in the village started last summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic and became popular with residents and restaurants alike. This year, Valley Streamers say they hope on-street dining is here to stay, Covid or not.

“Al fresco — it’s wonderful. It reminds me of Italy,” Rita DiMaio, a 55-year resident of Valley Stream, said of dining outside on the avenue. “. . .They should do this all the time. . . not only during Covid.”

DiMaio sat with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren and enjoyed a meal outside at Mitchell’s. On-street dining allowed the family an opportunity to dine together safely without going inside to have a restaurant experience, her daughter, Lauren Blake explained. 

“It’s not only nice to be out here, but we are not going to go inside anywhere,” Blake said. She noted that Saturday evening was the first time she and her family have been to a restaurant since Covid began, apart from getting pizza on one another occasion. “It’s not back to normal . . . we still have Covid.”

Blake, who lived in Valley Stream for 28 years, said she is continuing to exercise precautions due to Covid concerns. She believes the village’s on-street dining gives those who might otherwise be hesitant the chance to eat out, and creates opportunities for the eateries. Blake added that she thought it would be nice if the village would continue to allow outdoor dining beyond the pandemic.

“It makes you feel comfortable . . . it’s safer to be out here than indoors,” Jovanna Montejo said. As she dined with family at the Colombian restaurant, Chicken Coop, she remarked she was glad to be outdoors after spending so much time inside the past year.

In addition to having the option to eat outside to alleviate pandemic-related concerns, residents also appreciate the sense of community that on-street dining brings to the village.

“We enjoyed it last year, it was great,” Richie Ocampo, said while dining outside at Chicken Coop. “The atmosphere kind of brought the town together.”