In Defense of Manganaro’s Grosseria

Photo courtesy of Roboppy

Manganaro’s (along with its unaffiliated next door neighbor Manganaro’s Hero Boy) has been mentioned a few times on the site as a great place (on 9th Ave. btw 37+38th) to get an Italian sandwich. And even though it’s never been officially reviewed (it’s out of bounds, and a lot of things will cost you more than $10), I’ve always considered it an honorary Midtown Lunch. Which is why this post caught my eye on Fork New York, a long dormant blog run by Profiled Lunch’er “Andre Mika”. He resurrected his blog this week specifically to rant about the “bitches” who run the 100+ year old Manganaro’s Grosseria. The story is worth reading in its entirety, but is essentially summed up at the end with this:

“So I guess the moral of the story is, unless you love being abused and crapped on by people who you are trying to give your money to, stay away from Manganaro Grosseria Italiano.”

“Judging by the large, happy crowd next door, I would recommend the Manganaro HeroBoy place I passed on. Next time, I’ll follow the crowd, delicious smells and common sense….. and not my nostalgic instincts.”

Yes, it is true. The two ladies who run Manganaro’s could be considered… well… crazy.  And I wouldn’t use the B-word, but sure… they can bitch-like… but in the best possible way! That’s to say, much more enjoyable when you are watching somebody else get yelled at- than if you are on the receiving end of their wrath. Taken straight from an episode of Seinfeld, the two ladies are not unlike the Soup Nazi- although, if you follow their unwritten rules, and they deem you worthy, you get treated to a delicious lunch, served by the two sweetest, funniest ladies of all time.

The problems start when you do one of a few things- and there is obviously no way for Andre to have known this…

1. You take pictures without asking. Actually, if you do anything without asking. They feel like Manganaro’s is not so much a public business, where the customer is always right- but more like their private home. And they think you should treat it as such (and pay for the privilege!)

2. You mention Manganaro’s Hero Boy (the restaurant next door.) You can read about the history of the two places, and the family rift that happened almost 50 years ago in this New York Times article. It’s a sore subject, and they have become especially weary of anybody who is looking to compare the two. I watched them go ballistic on a lady who had a Hero Boy bag in her hand when she entered the shop. The sisters didn’t even give her a chance to order, or ask a question or anything. They literally just started yelling at her, until the lady with the Hero Boy bag left. Then the sisters ranted for 30 minutes about how disrespectful that was.

3. You admit to them you’re a blogger! Of course this is related to the two above… but if they do catch you snapping photos, just apologize profusely-and with respect- as if they were cops that had just pulled you over for speeding. Oh, and you probably shouldn’t tell them you are there because of Anthony Bourdain.  They loved the attention they got, but are much nicer to people they perceive as being longtime neighborhood customers, than fly by night TV watching, johnny-come latelies.

Lucky for me, the first time I visited Mangarnaro’s was with a good friend who warned me about all these things. I even got to see them in action, yelling at others… so it made subsequent visits a little easier. I took a few photos, but it was after we politely ordered and made small talk and were all having a good time. (Which is code for we happily listened to them complain about how crazy some of their customers are.)  Was I scared they would turn on me?  Every single minute of the lunch.  Would I stop going there?  Not if you paid me.

The thing is, Manganaro’s is far better than Hero Boy.  (It’s not even comparable.)  Sure it’s more expensive, the portions are smaller, and it’s far more intimidating… but the food is just plain better.  And I wouldn’t blame Andre (or any other abused patron) for never returning.  But, if you have the benefit of learning the rules first, eating there is like eating in somebody’s house. (Somebody who really knows how to cook.)

It’s easy to get mad, and call them bitches, and discuss why nobody who owns a business should act in that way.  But it’s more rewarding to just suck it up, and follow their insane rules. I understand why Hero Boy is more crowded, but it’s not because it’s better.  Don’t trust me?  Go see for yourself.  Just don’t tell the ladies of Manganaro’s what you’re up to…

For more about Manganaro’s, read this great piece on Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

Manganaro’s, 488 9th Ave, 212-563-5331
Manganaro’s, Hero Boy, 492 9th Ave, 212-947-7325


  • I’m still unclear what the rules are….other than no photos and hero boy talk…I am tempted to go just to see what happens….

  • DiFara…. Manganaro… Melampo… aren’t we all just a little tired of over-hyped Italian joints with “issues”? Have tried all 3 and none are worth the idiocy….all of them make me want to do a Christopher Walken in True Romance

    But I happily go back to Melampo now since Walter took over and renamed it Alidoro though

  • …in what foooookin way do i look funny……….cos im short?……i foooking funny cos im short ya prick?.

  • I’ve been really excited to finally try this “institution” for awhile now. I just got placed on a project that for once has me closer to the westside restaurant mecca and midtown courts that i’ve dreamed of trying ever since Zach started this blog. I haven’t had a chance to go to Manganaro yet, and admittedly I am a bit intimidated from all i’m hearing… BUT a point of appreciation needs to be made. Once upon a time (like a whopping 15-20 years ago) NYC still was home to a certain styling that kept you hiding a few emergency bucks in your socks, constantly navigating a sea of hookers while also ducking spitting squeegy men, and attitude was the dialect spoken by the locals (go watch the original Pelham 123, Taxi Driver, or even the first Ghostbusters)… in that regards this Manganaro’s seems to be truly a historic landmark.. not only physically but in it’s embodiment of NYC gritty toughness from long ago. Equipped with a few hairs on my chest, I’m ready to brave this friggin’ challenge you god damn midtown lunchin’ A-holes :> So keep that in perspective… for as we all know on this site, Lunch isn’t simply about food, it’s about the experience (of getting the hell out of the office)

  • There’s no excuse for rude service and over-priced food. Let this dinosaur go extinct.

  • Jeff… you should go in there wearing a “Trieste Belongs To Slovenia” T-shirt… or maybe a Heil to the Pope shirt…

  • On my first visit, the lovely duo were tearing into a couple of tourist douchebags right as I was walking in.
    I just quietly ordered my food with a big smile and ate at a small table while listening to the ladies rant about how stupid some of their customers were.
    It’s almost like paying for a show with your lunch…
    Unfortunately, the food just didn’t live up to its hype. One of the oiliest subs I’ve ever had (with slightly stale bread)…but the entertainment from the staff is kind of enjoyable (unless it’s directed at you)…
    and yeah, it’s pretty damn overpriced…

  • @wayne – I actually get much more excited about Asian food than Italian food (as you all know), which makes me wonder if for people like me (and I’m assuming you as well) what great Italian place isn’t overhyped?

    Is there any pizza that is worth traveling an hour for, and waiting on line for 2 hours? My guess is your answer is no. But if the pizza was free, and already sitting in front of you, I’m guessing DiFara’s is one of the best.

    I wouldn’t travel miles, and spend a million bucks on Manganaro’s. And I”m not saying it’s the kind of food that is going to *blow you away*. But it’s good, honest, real Italian American food, that’s as close to homemade as you are going to get in a restaurant. Most of the Italian places in Midtown are pretty soulless.

  • What did I miss here?

    I thought that New Yawk City folks, most of whom exist on pizza, sandwiches, matzoh balls, and soup — could not thoroughly enjoy (or digest) their ‘meal’ without a healthy dose of insults, sarcasm, and other verbal abuse by the people ‘serving’ them.

    Does this post tend to indicate that ‘Manganaro’s Hero Boy’ is a “Chosen One” among the over-hyped Italian joints serving up frickin’ sandwiches with an attitude?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

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    The one time (so far) that I have been there was a Saturday afternoon, right when they looked to be closing up. Both ladies were very nice, I got my food and a beer, ate at a table. No hassles. I don’t know what other people are doing to piss these ladies off; they were fine with me.

    The one downside was that my sausage-parm was not great (I think they rushed it since they were looking to close). On that note, does anyone know where to get a decent sausage parm? For meatball parm and chicken parm it is hard to beat Tuscany, but no sausage.

  • Wow, I’ve never had a problem there, and didn’t even know the rules! There are some great places like that around, the International Spice store on 9th, run by a supposedly cranky greek man comes to mind. If you’re respectful and not a raging asshole(having thick skin doesn’t hurt) no issues.

  • I think I’ll just pass on this place, thankyouverymuch.

  • I rather enjoy any place that gives you some attitude.

  • Oooh… I love the spice market on 9th Ave. And the owner is indeed very cranky.

  • @Goats – I should have probably added a fourth rule:

    “Just be more polite than you would ever be, and don’t ask any stupid questions.” As to what exactly “polite” means, and what constitutes a “stupid question”… well, that probably changes from customer to customer at their whim!

  • @Wayne… i’m just looking for attitude, not a black eye… but thanks for the suggestions :>

  • I live in the ‘hood, and I’ve never had a problem either here or at the spice market. Go in with a smile, be polite, and watch the show. That’s what it’s all about.

  • I’ve been there twice and found the food to be a real disappointment. I can handle a little abuse or rude behavior if the food was good – for instance I love the Felafel and Fried Fish at Azuri Cafe on 50th and the owner is not Mr Congeniality – but Manganaro’s was expensive and bad. Not even Real American Italian Food bad, just poor quality. The decor is pretty great, though.

  • Yeah, I’ve not had problems at the spice place(though they recognize me there, it helps), but I’ve witnessed others having issues. The most curmudgeonly Seabreeze fish store guy has been gone for a while now too. I was happy when I got him to smile and round down the price. Took 4 years.

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