In Defense of Manganaro’s Grosseria
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