Across the way from William F. Moore Park in Corona Heights is one of Queens’ most treasured institutions: an ice stand that’s still drawing crowds after seven decades of business. That stand, The Lemon Ice King of Corona, once shared this neighborhood with Italian salumerias, bakeries and open-air markets. Today it’s one of few reminders that this neighborhood used to be the epicenter of Italian migration to Queens.
The other reminders—the Parkside restaurant and Corona Pizza—are nestled close by, together forming a historic triangle around the park that is now a meeting place for Italian Americans, Latin Americans, and anyone else from the world’s borough who wants to ante up a shot at the resident bocce sharks. The entire scene is a reminder that change is constant, but so is adaptation.
Vinnie Barbaccia, a Corona native who’s co-owned the Lemon Ice King for a quarter of a century, has certainly done his fair share of adapting. Listening to the Latinx families who have largely taken the place of his old neighbors in Corona, he’s diversified the menu with a variety of tropical flavors, and continues to experiment each summer to keep his customers coming back for something they can’t find anywhere else. At the same time, Barbaccia has changed very little about the business, still serving ice in paper cups and keeping his lips tightly sealed about how exactly the product gets to be so smooth.
At some point in time Barbaccia and his partner did end a steadfast rule of the original Lemon Ice King by offering spoons to their customers, but that’s a story for another summer’s day.
This story is part of 1 Minute Meal, a documentary series that uses food to reveal the communities, legacies, dreams, realities, and unseen forces that shape life in New York City.
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