Sanctuary owners Alphonso Biondi and Frank Raffaele

After The Girl Puzzle, The Sanctuary kept the party going…


After The Girl Puzzle dazzled a crowd of admirers in Lighthouse Park, celebrants trooped south to The Sanctuary for drinks, food and jazz. It was all good and on the house.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

After The Girl Puzzle, The Party

Buffet table at The Sanctuary
Freshly prepared food waited at The Sanctuary.

While folks who’d heard inspiring speeches swarmed The Girl Puzzle along with the artist, we got a fresh start, taking a short walk with the owner to The Sanctuary. Frank Raffaele and partner Alphonso Biondi reimagined an historic but deteriorating church as a place for riverside dining and parties. The timing was bad as the pandemic battered businesses and banned indoor get togethers. But the corner’s been turned, and now, they can hold gatherings like this one after The Girl Puzzle ribbon-cutting.

Susheel Kurien leads his jazz band.

Your first impression is flavored with jazz filling the converted hall, the acoustics well suited for the music. Roosevelt Islander Susheel Kurien, on the right, regularly brings his band here.

Raffaele says that, although The Sanctuary is ideally an indoor/outdoor venue, innovation’s been a necessity. First, the pandemic – still brewing – then the arduous task of drawing crowds until the spring season of weddings and graduations begins…

A unique dining experience

After The Girl Puzzle, a dining experience waited.
The Sanctuary dining room…

After The Girl Puzzle opening, the dining area slowly filled with friends, including the sculptor Amanda Matthews. Light pouring in through stained glass accented restored flooring and understated, comfortable tables and chairs.

A well-stocked bar, backed by dazzling, restored glass windows..

Even though the after-party was sponsored by Raffaele and Biondi, the available drinks and foods were generous. The pair hopes getting people familiar with the pleasures of the place will mean increasing lunch and dinner guests.

Inadequate signage at Roosevelt Island entry points, like the Tram and Subway, send visitors south toward brighter lights. But like The Octagon and Lighthouse Park, The Sanctuary is just a short, free Red Bus ride away.

Alphonso Biondi and Frank Raffaele.

If the weather for The Girl Puzzle promises a mild winter, an early spring should follow. And that means, wedding celebrations mixed with skyline views across the river at the quieter quarters of The Sanctuary and Roosevelt Island.

The partners’ generosity with guests after The Girl Puzzle ribbon-cutting should reward them with Roosevelt Islanders and friends taking the easy trek north.

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