To honor George Kaufman, the founder of Kaufman Astoria Studios who died last month, the speakeasy-era restaurant at the studio will re-open as George’s today.
Kaufman Astoria Studios, which was built in 1920, was the original home of Paramount Pictures. Stars such as Gloria Swanson, the Marx Brothers and Rudolph Valentino shot films at the studio before it was used by the Army Pictorial Services to create Army films from the 1940s through 1970s.
Kaufman purchased the studio in 1982 and since then, shows such as “Orange is the New Black,” “Shades of Blue,” “The Path” and movies such as “The Irishman” and “Birdman” have been filmed there. “Sesame Street” has filmed its show at the studio since 1933.
The Astor Room, which used to be the commissary for Paramount Pictures at 35-11 35th Ave., was restored in 2011 and features many of the same distinctive characteristics such as a grand marble staircase and tiled walls. George’s will include new flooring, seating, and artwork to celebrate the studio’s history.
“This is a very fitting tribute as it was George’s idea to renovate this space and turn it into a public-facing venue of the studio where people can experience movie history,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president, and CEO of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “Just as it was his vision to bring movie-making back to New York and make the studio a vital part of this community, he saw this restaurant as a way to bring people in this community together to enjoy great food, drinks, and music in a very special, historic place. He would be very proud to know that the restaurant will now bear his name.”
The new menu will include a six-foot spaghetti dish to pay homage to actor Rudolph Valentino, who would serve the dish to his guests. Borgatti’s, an 80-year-old Italian specialty store in the Bronx, makes the six-foot-long pasta, and the tomato sauce is a Valentino family recipe.
“Folklore tells us that Valentino really enjoyed entertaining, having fun and introducing people to his native cuisine,” said John Nikach, George’s manager. “The six-foot spaghetti was something of a conversation starter at parties. It was a challenge to see who was able to swirl the spaghetti and keep one strand entirely intact.”
Groucho Marx, who in 1929 shot his first film “Cocoanuts” with the Marx Brothers at the studios, was a fan of New England clam chowder. The restaurant will serve the chowder with animal crackers as a callback to the play “Animal Crackers,” performed by the family of vaudeville entertainers.
New signature cocktails will also be included on the menu, many named for films and stars who filmed scenes at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Some items include Betty Bronson’s “A Kiss for Cinderella,” a 1925 film that starred Betty Bronson and the 1931 film “My Sin,” starring Tallulah Bankhead and Fredric March.