Dec. 8, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Vincenzo Cerbone, the longtime co-owner of Manducatis Italian restaurant in Long Island City, died after a short illness last week. He was 91.
Cerbone was a well-respected and popular owner who opened the old-style restaurant on the corner of 47th Avenue and Jackson Avenue in the 1970s.
The Long Island City resident established the 13-27 Jackson Ave. location with his wife Ida and turned it into a neighborhood staple which attracted families, politicians and entertainers from across the city. The family-run eatery serves traditional Italian fare like homemade plates of pasta and a variety of meat dishes.
Cerbone was from Naples and served in the Carabinieri — the Italian law enforcement agency — before moving to the U.S. permanently in 1976. He also served in the First Infantry Division in the U.S. Army, known as the Big Red One, according to his daughter Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, who owns Manducatis Rustica restaurant on Vernon Boulevard.
She said her father was known for his generosity and never sought out recognition.
“My father was a very smart businessman who helped a lot of people,” Cerbone-Teoli said.
“He was never selfish and always thought of everybody else before he thought of himself. He had so much humanity inside of him.”
The couple started the business from humble beginnings, opening on Christmas Day 1977. They installed a refrigerator from their apartment and used the pots and pans Ida received from her bridal shower to get the eatery up and running. Their children began helping out by serving tables and washing dishes in the ’80s as business picked up.
Cerbone preferred to keep a low profile despite his many noteworthy customers. For instance, he was good friends with singer Tony Bennett who often frequented the restaurant, Cerbone-Teoli said.
She said that her father always had a positive outlook on life despite suffering a terrible tragedy as a young child. His mother and three of his siblings were killed in a bombardment in Naples during World War II.
Cerbone-Teoli said her father would often say: “Life is a beautiful thing. Don’t worry about it, it looks like it’s bad but everything works itself out.”
He was a dedicated family man who cherished his wife of 61 years, Cerbone-Teoli said.
“They were always a beautiful couple. He left a great legacy of love and we had a wonderful childhood growing up,” she said.
The restauranteur was well-regarded among his customers, residents and community leaders in Long Island City. The Hunters Point Civic Association said it was “deeply saddened” to hear of Cerbone’s passing.
“His impact and dedication to our neighborhood was immeasurable,” the civic group said in a statement. “This is a deep loss for our community. We sincerely appreciate all his service.”
Cerbone’s wake took place in Middle Village Sunday while his funeral mass was held Monday at St. Mary’s Church on 49th Avenue in Long Island City. He will be buried in Italy.
He is survived by his wife Ida, his four children and nine grandchildren.