La Bella Vita, the popular Ozone Park catering hall that was the birthplace of the “Pizza Dance,” shut down last month for unknown reasons after almost three decades in business.
Calls to the catering hall’s office and reservation number rang with no response Monday and Tuesday and an email sent to owner Tony Modica through his personal website was undeliverable.
Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said she did not know the banquet hall had closed and that its owner had recently reapplied for a new liquor license. The hall’s previous liquor license expired in September, 2012, according to State Liquor Authority records.
Modica, who owned and operated La Bella Vita since it opened at 106-09 Rockaway Blvd. in 1985, also operated a pizzeria adjacent to the catering hall at 106th Street and Rockaway Boulevard. The pizzeria closed a couple of years ago and has been replaced by an eatery serving Middle Eastern and West Indian food.
A pizza chef by trade, Modica was famous locally for a dance he created called the “Pizza Dance,” which involves a person mimicking the moves done by chefs when they make a pizza in dance form. For several years, Modica performed the “Pizza Dance” on a float during the Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan.
The catering hall, decked out in Neapolitan decor, was a popular place for weddings, birthday parties, confirmations, first Holy Communions and bar and bat mitzvahs. Modica was also active in the community, often holding pizza parties for area children. La Bella Vita even donated food to victims of Hurricane Sandy in Howard Beach and the Rockaways immediately after the storm.
La Bella Vita still served as a restaurant as well, holding live music events when Modica himself would often perform.