Queens was an alluring mystery to Joseph DiStefano, whose early memories of the world’s borough included glimpses of the iconic Unisphere from his family’s car.
DiStefano returned years later and immersed himself in the borough’s rich culinary offerings, becoming a food blogger and tour guide.
He’s sharing that passion with a new book, “111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss,” which he will officially launch Monday night at an 8 p.m. event at QED in Astoria.
“I fell in love with Queens and its many cultures through the lens of food,” said DiStefano, 49, whose family left the borough for Long Island when he was just a year old. “I was attracted by the ethnic diversity and multiculturalism.”
Di Stefano moved to Woodside in the late 1990s and would explore new cuisines as he walked home from the 7 train.
“One night it might be Filipino food, or Mexican from a food truck or Thai,” he said.
He tapped into those experiences and the years he spent living and guiding people through Queens for the book. The read includes vivid images by photographer Clay Williams.
“There is a never-ending wealth of places to explore,” said DiStefano, who blogs at chopsticksandmarrow.com. “I’ve certainly plumbed the depths of that in the research for this book.”
DiStefano tried to avoid the obvious, which is why you will not find a section on the Unisphere, the 350-ton centerpiece of the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
But you will read about the Chestnut King of Flushing, the Alley Pond Giant — a 133-foot tall tree — and the Whispering Column of Jerash, an ancient Roman relic tucked away in a popular park.
“I gave a copy of the book to my friend’s mom, who has been living in Queens for many years and she was just amazed,” said DiStefano, who now lives in Forest Hills. “We wanted to have a list of places that would reflect the deep history and diversity and just the sheer quirkiness that makes Queens what it is.”
Most New Yorkers know the narrow highway that connects Brooklyn and Queens is named for baseball legend Jackie Robinson, but they may be surprised to find out he was one of many African-American celebrities that once called Addisleigh Park home.
“Queens deserves to be a major tourist destination, but it’s lost in the shadow of Manhattan,” said Nicholas Hirshon, an assistant professor of communication at William Paterson University and author of “Images of America: Forest Hills.” “A book like this can bring attention to those places, which can, in turn, lead to tourism dollars and public support for historic preservation.”
DiStefano said the book could have easily covered 222 places in Queens and he tried to pack in as much information as he could with tips in every chapter.
“There is something new to discover at every corner,” he said.