Aug. 20, 2020 By Asha MacKay
The Romanian Garden, a Sunnyside hotspot that has been offering quality pan-European fare for 25 years, has managed to get through the pandemic and is looking to thrive.
The restaurant is owned by Gabriela Bancescu, a Romanian immigrant who also owns Harmony Terrace in Sunnyside at 47-57 41st St.
Harmony Terrace has been closed since March, Bancescu said, since it has been tough to manage two restaurants. The Romanian Garden, located at 43-06 43rd Ave., however has remained open through out the pandemic.
Bancescu, a resident of Sunnyside, said all of her employees at Harmony Terrace were transitioned to the Romanian Garden and with good fortune there was no need for layoffs.
She said that her 25-year relationship with customers in the neighborhood has served her well–and she is thankful to them.
Deliveries have been popular since the beginning of the pandemic. Bancescu and her family drove orders to customers as far as New Jersey, Westchester and Long Island.
Bancescu received a PPP loan from the government at the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown, but it was only 10 percent of what she said was needed to cover operations. She applied a second time but was informed there were no more funds available.
Other restaurateurs had the same problem, according to Bancescu, with many only getting 10-15 percent of what they needed.
She isn’t upset about the lack of aid. “There’s millions of people applying for these loans,” she said. “You cannot get everything you’re supposed to get, so they give a little bit to everyone.”
Bancescu is grateful to the city for allowing restaurants to use parking spots for outdoor dining space.
The outdoor seating area is a point of pride for Bancescu, who went all-out with decorations to match the restaurant’s interior. The white tablecloths and floral arrangements give it the look and feel of a wedding party venue.
Bancescu is finding that the outside seating brings in new customers. “They see the beautiful terrace and then they look at the menu and say wow, I want to come here,” she reports.
She has received no complaints from nearby residents about the loss of parking space.
“I have very good neighbors here. They appreciate the work we put in, they appreciate the beautiful terrace more than the parking lot,” says Bancescu.
However, dealing with bicyclists hasn’t been quite so easy. She said that some speed down the 43rd Avenue protected bicycle lane, which the Romanian Garden’s outdoor seating straddles.
“In the night time they come so fast,” says Bancescu. Waiters have to be extra cautious and look three times before crossing, she added.
The business has spent a significant amount to make the outdoor dining area attractive, says Bancescu.
“I invested more than $10,000 to make a unique terrace and cozy place,” she said, noting that she wanted to create an uplifting place during these dark times.
“I just want to see people happy again,” she says.