09 March 2011

Manganaro, Irascible to the Last

What the hell? Of all the old businesses in New York City, Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana and its bete noire brother restaurant, Manganaro's Hero Boy, make it the hardest to be a pure-hearted preservationist. You want to support them. You want to carry the torch. But the ornery owners are so damn difficult and contrary that half the time you want to shove that torch in their face.

Recently, an article in the Wall Street Journal reported that the Manganaro clan that runs the Grosseria Italiana (and has warred for decades with the half of the family that operate Hero Boy a couple doors down) was going to sell the building and close the business. At the time, I was amazed that the Journal actually managed to get the owners to sit down and be civil enough to willingly take part in an interview. They are, after all, widely know for abusing their customers.

But now they're back on form. Seline Dell'Orto, proprietor of Manganaro's Grosseria Italiana, told the New York Observer that they were furious with the Journal. "We're not closing!" Ms. Dell'Orto barked. "No one said that to that idiot reporter!" Nice.

A spokesperson from the Wall Street Journal responded: "While not the best [headline] we've ever written, it's meant to convey the process of closing rather than the moment of closure."

Another revelation: shrewish Seline has feelings! "I alienated a lot of people," she said. "I've said mean things. I'm not an angel, but I'm better than that. That's why I'm crying. I can't tell you how many nights I didn't sleep over something I said to someone."

Stay tuned until next week, when Seline expresses her indignation with the Observer article.


Carol Gardens said...

But you left out the best quote! "...it's a hundred and twenty fucking years old and it's beautiful." To be a true NY ornery character you must curse like an old sailor (see Shopsin et al.)

upstate Johnny G said...

Another report (see my comment to Brooks' first posting on this topic) said that they just want to sell the building, not close the business and that they are "hoping" to work out a deal with whoever buys the building to get a long-term lease!! As I said earlier....these folks must not be paying attention to what is going on in this city. Any small, indie biz that doesn't own it's building is definitely in danger of being forced out of business via huge rent increases.

Perhaps what is really going on is that the owners are contesting their property tax assessment for the building. They might be really just "test marketing" it, seeing what response they get when the asking price is what the taxing authority says is the full market value. If the offers they get are way below that, they could use this as evidence in a tax grievance action that their property is over-assessed. Of course another way to do this is to have an appraisal done and present those findings. Don't really know what they're up to, but considering how much money and time they have spent in a fratricidal battle over hero sandwich rights I am could be persuaded that they find it difficult to see what action best protects their interest.

As for rudeness, I grew up in New England, where NYC was always held to be the national center of rudeness. The perception had to do, I think, with the idea that NYC, being the commercial capital of the world at that time, was a place dedicated to speed, hustling, and hyper-competitiveness, all of which precluded "nice-ness".

That NYC was a tougher place, where small business owners could be gruff unless you were a regular. It wasn't all "Hi, welcome to the Union Square Grill. My name is Melanie and I'll be your server today." It was more like "waddya want?". Times have changed. Consumers want clerks who are outgoing, happy people who will make them feel good about their transaction. In fact, I'd argue that "feeling good" is part of what the modern consumer is buying in a transaction. Might be time for Manganaro to change along with the times, or else figure out how to make bad customer relations an advantage...like "you mean you HAVEN'T been to Manganaro yet? The nasty service is legendary. Ya gotta check it out." Yeah, maybe that's what they should do....embrace their bad service and turn it into an advantage.