“It’s not your traditional restaurant,” said Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner and head of the kitchen. “We’re not looking to be pretentious.”
Located at 46-33 Vernon Boulevard, Manducatis Rustica in Long Island City, stresses family feel in a neighborhood known for its youthful population.
Cerbone-Teoli, who is known as “Mama G” to regular customers, said that she is not a chef, she’s a cook.
“A chef to me is someone who tells others what to do,” Teoli said. “I want to be someone who keeps passion in cooking and enjoys cooking.”
The restaurant uses meat from local vendors and features an inviting atmosphere. While other restaurants rely on preparing food ahead of time, Manducatis Rustica makes each meal to order.
“You may have to wait and if you’re in a big rush, this is not the place for you,” Cerbone-Teoli said. “I want to treat customers like human beings, not like cattle.”
In addition to catering to families in the community, Cerbone-Teoli makes it a point to be involved in the community. For a recent Halloween fair, the restaurant donated over 400 cupcakes and 200 candied apples.
Cerbone-Teoli said she wished to keep Long Island City a place where neighbors know each other.
“I do it because it needs to be done,” she said. “I’m fighting to keep it a neighborhood. It’s not going to turn into Manhattan.”
Manducatis Rustica will also take orders from customers days in advance.
“If people call me two days before they come to eat and request a lasagna,” she said. “I’ll make it for them.”
In fact, there is a woman from Howard Beach who makes that very request whenever her daughter is in town. It’s those customers that Cerbone-Teoli enjoys cooking for.
“We have all these great restaurants but everyone forgets humanity,” she said. “But I still keep the humanity in it. I’ll kiss and hug you.”