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Gem Spa May Be Gone but Its Famous Zoltar Fortunetelling Machine Lives on in Bushwick

Plus, Filipino Restaurant Week is underway in New York City — and more intel

Coney Island Amusement Parks Reopen After Long Pandemic Shutdown
A Zoltar fortunetelling machine stationed at Coney Island.
Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

The Zoltar machine from Gem Spa lives on at a Bushwick pizzeria

Gem Spa may have ended its nearly century-long run as an East Village corner store last May, but the New York Times chronicles an iconic piece of the shop’s history that lives on in Brooklyn. Zoltar, the fortunetelling machine popularized by the movie “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, and the “unofficial mascot” of Gem Spa, has turned up in front of OMG Pizza, located at 1307 Myrtle Avenue, near Central Avenue, in Bushwick.

The machine belongs to Carlo Muraco, a former arcade operator who tends to most of the city’s Zoltar machines, according to the Times. He installed the unit in front of Gem Spa in 2012, where it offered $2 fortunes for most of the last decade. After the corner store lost its cigarette and lottery license due to an illegal sale made to an undercover cop, however, former operator Parul Patel made an effort to clean up the front of shop to appease her landlord, and that meant addressing Zoltar. She offered to move the machine indoors, but Muraco insisted that Zoltar belonged on the sidewalk and removed it ahead of Gem Spa’s closure last year.

Aside from Muraco, no one seemed to know what had happened to the machine — not even Patel. “It’s nice to know there’s a piece of us still out there in the city,” she tells the Times. “Even though he’s not in the East Village anymore, he is a real living artifact of Gem Spa.”

In other news

— The former owners of Pado, an East Village sushi restaurant that closed last October, are mounting a comeback on the Lower East Side. Restaurateurs Jee Young Kim and Bund Je Lo are seeking a liquor license for a “reservation-only Korean restaurant” at 84 Stanton Street, near Allen Street, according to Bowery Boogie.

— Filipino Restaurant Week, a two-week event put on by the Philippine Consulate General, kicks off today. Thirteen restaurants are included in this year’s event, which involves a social media competition for a free trip to the Philippines.

New York Times critic Pete Wells reviews Contento, an East Harlem restaurant that “sets an example for an industry that is rarely welcoming to diners with disabilities.”

— East Village automat Brooklyn Dumpling Shop has signed a deal to open six locations in its namesake borough, according to a spokesperson for the company.

— Taqueria Nixtamal, a Mexican restaurant with a permanent location at the Market Line food hall, is serving birria tacos from Threes Brewing in Greenpoint until August 29.

— How the city’s restaurants suddenly got so expensive, according to Grub Street.

— In defense of the “lazy picnic.”

— Everything is fine: