Gianna's parents opened up "old country" Italian food restaurant Manducatis in Long Island City at the end of 1977. She and her siblings worked there from 10 to 15 years.
Gianna never wanted to open up Manducatis Rustica, despite her father's insistence, because she had been in the business her whole life and didn't want to make the same sacrifices her parents made. Many years later, her father said to her: "Did you ever wonder why I asked you to open up your own business? Maybe because I knew you were capable of keeping my name and able to do this."
To carve her own path, Manducatis Rustica started as a small cafe "where great artists could come together and sit around and talk and create the new tomorrow." Once customers kept requesting food and delicacies, it was inevitable it would expand and turn into a restaurant.
Manducatis Rustica also kind of doubles as a quasi-museum of Long Island City history, all from Gianna's personal collection of everything from her life growing up there, including photos, paintings, antiques, collectibles, and knick-knacks.
I've kept it all this time. I keep it close to me. Because it means a lot. If it meant a lot to him, it meant a lot to me.
It shouldn't, right, because who was he to me?
But he was a part of my history. He was a good man. Despite the fact that he was a bookie. I didn't even know what that was until later on.
But as a kid, he used to say to me -- and he'd hold his hat like this -- "One day, kid, you're going to be the big 'vig' in town."
I didn't know what that meant. I'd go "Ha ha ha ha." Not until later years did I actually start to understand.
One of the things that I heard from the daughter is that literally, it was one of the first things that he bought himself.
When he made money, it was the hat. Because in those days, a hat meant a lot. It was like who you are... stature. He bought it... it's really good. I checked the company. In those days, they paid like $90 for a hat like this.