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Playland Tavern's New Chef Vows to Turn Around Rowdy Nightspot

By Katie Honan | April 6, 2015 7:44am
 Dan Cipriani opened a barbecue food truck in Rockaway Beach last summer and is moving to Playland Motel to run its restaurant and bar.
Dan Cipriani opened a barbecue food truck in Rockaway Beach last summer and is moving to Playland Motel to run its restaurant and bar.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ROCKAWAY BEACH — A new manager is taking over the restaurant inside the Playland Motel and he has promised to turn the late-night hangout into a family-friendly spot.  

Dan Cipriani, who operated a Southern-style food truck at Rockaway Beach Surf Club last summer, will manage the kitchen at the Playland Tavern on Beach 98th Street and is creating a new menu in time for summer, he announced at a community meeting Thursday.

The news was welcomed by members of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association who say the popular hangout has disturbed neighbors with loud parties and rowdy crowds.

Cipriani, a father of six who also opened Lodge in Williamsburg, vowed to put an end to the Tavern's raucous reputation and said he was interested in running a wholesome restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"I don't plan on staying open until 4 a.m.," he said. "My vision for Playland is the exact opposite of what it was."

The new menu will be a modern take on classic American diner fare and Cipriani will preview it at the Taste of Rockaway event on April 25, he said. Cipriani will officially take over in the kitchen on May 1 and will hire a new chef, he said.

Cipriani opened a Southern-style barbecue food truck at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club last summer, but is now moving operations to Playland. 

The new menu will feature classic brunch items like pancakes and huevos rancheros, he told DNAinfo. 

He brought his style of classic food with high-end ingredients to his food truck last summer but is looking forward to working in an expanded kitchen at Playland. 

"Not having to work off a truck is going to be a huge difference," he said.

"The quality and the volume of food is going to be so much greater."

He'll also revamp the bar, focusing on wines, beers and spirits made in New York. 

Cipriani's first concern was assuring residents he'll work with them to make the restaurant ideal, and wants to bring a local feel back to the bar.

"I'm bringing back more of the spirit of the old Boggiano's, where it's a true local joint," he said, referring to the old-school clam bar that was in the Playland space back when the amusement park the bar is named after was across the street.

To appease neighbors concerned about crowds, he said he's willing to meet with anyone who wants to talk — and offered to make pancakes. 

"I'm the new guy coming into the neighborhood," he said. "I'll have to prove myself."