NYC Ferry Operated by Hornblower is your new way to commute. We connect New Yorkers and visitors to the city’s waterfront communities – including neighborhood businesses, job centers, and parks. Our new blog series, Community Connect, is another way to connect our riders to these communities by highlighting local businesses, community leaders, and non-profits. Each week we focus on a different neighborhood along one of our four routes and bring you a short story about a neighborhood icon.
The woman behind Long Island City’s Manducatis Rustica, Gianna Cerbone-Teoli (AKA Mama G), is a Long Island City native and a passionate leader of her community. “I really had no intention of getting into the restaurant business. I didn’t want to do this at all, but there was no place for people to just go, to sit down and discuss, [a place where the] Republican can talk to the Democrat. I wanted there to be a place where you could come home for dinner but you didn’t have to go to your house.” And so, Manducatis Rustica, a simple, homey Italian restaurant, was born in 2008.
Speaking to Cerbone-Teoli, Manducatis Rustica is the outlet for her greater community involvement. She doesn’t write anything down, when you make a reservation, she keeps it all in her head, which is easy to do because she has a personal relationship with everyone that comes in. “Each person that comes in here is like a different member of [my] family. I have each one of my customers in a different compartment of my heart, they may not realize it but they’re a part of my family.”
Cerbone-Teoli learned to cook from her mother, who told her, “You’re either born with it or you aren’t.” It didn’t hurt that she spent her life growing up splitting time between Long Island City and Italy, learning to cook from her mother, her grandmother, and her grandfather the butcher. How she runs her restaurant is similar to how she lives her life: “I’m not pretentious, I’m not fancy. I don’t want to be a three-star Michelin restaurant, I want my customers to be happy.” When you come to Manducatis Rustica, prepare to go back to basics. “We don’t use any stocks, our soups are made with vegetables and water. When you order something off the menu, you have to wait for me to cut it up.”
Mama G is known in Long Island City and by people in many other communities because she isn’t shy to share her opinion. She’s busy – often stopping mid-thought to shout across the room in Italian. She sits on the boards of the Queens Council on the Arts, the local YMCA, the Long Island City BID, and runs a program called Sisters Matter, where girls from under-supported schools are put through an intensive 12-24 week technology programming curriculum to support tech and science education.
Cerbone-Teoli’s greatest challenge with Manducatis Rustica is parking. She’s seen fewer and fewer people being able to drive to the restaurant because of lack of parking, so she’s a huge fan of NYC Ferry and encourages customers to ditch their car and take the ferry instead. “I’m [also] big with tourists. They come in, eat, and I tell them to take the ferry back.”
Cerbone-Teoli has an easy commute – she’s just a few minutes walk to the restaurant. When asked what she would name a ferry if she had the chance, she thought something like Queen of Long Island City or Mama G had a nice ring to it. “[The ferry] is the best thing to ever happen to Long Island City. It’s better than chocolate cake!”
Manducatis Rustica is just an 8-minute walk from the LIC landing off of our NYC Ferry Astoria route. Go, become a member of Gianna’s family. Lasciatevi Tentare! (Let yourself be tempted!)