Astoria, NY – It wasn’t just another coffeehouse & bakery. Lefkos Pirgos Cafe was ground zero for Greek-Americans. For both locals and out-of-towners, it was a destiny to feel at home. A place that made you feel like you were in Greece. It was a meeting place to start or end your day exploring Astoria’s famed Greektown. Of course there are many Greek owned business in Astoria that made you feel like you were in Greece, but arguably none more than Lefkos Pirgos Cafe.
Now that place is no more. After nearly 40 years, the historic landmark has shut it’s doors and is in search of a new home. Three businesses on the strip adjacent to the Pirgos have already become vacant in the neighborhood. The vacant stores were once occupied by the Blooming Company, Lucky 7 Internet Café and Astron Gift Shop. With the lease having expired, the owners have an apparent new vision for the community – combining the four stores into one. It’s rumored that the likely new renters will be a national chain store like Wendy’s.
Adjacent to the bustling train stop in the heart of the Greek-American community, Lefkos Pirgos merged language, food, atmosphere and a lot more. It was the right place at the right time-a cornerstone of the community’s identity. It’s signature blue and white awning and stroll by seating on the corner of 31st Street and 23rd Avenue (22-85 31st Street) was an intersection of activities. A place to watch the world go by and capture the sense of Greek culture. You could find locals reading the Greek newspaper, playing a game of backgammon and talking politics in Greek. An attribute Greeks were born to do.
Just two years ago, one of the community’s own, Republican billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis had made a run for mayor of New York, and had hosted a campaign rally at Lefkos Pirgos. Alas, both appear to have met with a similar endings. Regardless, this speaks to the importance of Lefkos Pirgos and will likely be a place of historical reference.
The owner of Lefkos Pyrgos is in Greece at the moment according to its manager, but will seek a new lease elsewhere, upon his return to Astoria. Lefkos Pyrgos will likely look for a venue to move to in the neighborhood it has called home for nearly half a century. For Greeks, and the community, a historic part of the Astoria identity has been lifted, and will likely change the face of the Greek community forever.