Mt. Carmel St. Cristina Society

Mamma Leone Restaurant

Did you know...

When was Mamma Leone's restaurant born? It was born on her 32nd birthday and Enrico Caruso, the great tenor and a close friend of the family, was a guest at Luisa's birthday, but also was most responsible for her to open her little Italian restaurant as he called it "un piccolo pasticcino." On the morning of her birthday, November 2, 1905, her husband was leaving for work and he said "oh, by the way, Luisa, for your birthday I've invited a few of our friends from the Metropolitan Opera House for dinner tonight". "Good" she said. "How many?". "Oh, just a few - una cinquantina" (about fifty). She just smiled and said "Fine. I'll get busy. I'll prepare a magnificent dinner for you."

Soon she was cooking and singing away. The kitchen and the wine cellar is where the party was going to be held. Sixty guests showed up. A long table in the wine cellar was loaded with wonderful dishes, pastries, and fruits. Soon they started playing music and the first to sing was the great Caruso. He sang Lucio di Lammermoon with his chorus of beautiful voices. To her husband, this was living – surrounded by friends, music, delicious food, and his own good wine.

Caruso decided again to approach Luisa for the hundredth time and he asked when she was going to open "the piccolo posticino" just for us. Luisa knew this was the chance to get what she wanted. This was her dream for a long time, but her husband, like most Italian men, didn't like the idea of his wife working. But now she was more determined than ever that this night, her birthday, might be the right time to have her dream come true.

So Caruso took Luisa by the hand and went over to her husband who was singing a quartet from Rigoletto with the other singers. When the serenade ended, Caruso threw his arm around Gerolamo's shoulder (her husband) and said "Gerolamo, will you allow Luisa to open her little restaurant?" Gerolamo looked straight into her eyes and asked "do you really wnat a restaurant?" Lousia never blinked an eye. "Yes," she said, "There is nothing I want more." He hesitated but he gave his permission with his good advice. He told her "Louisa, I will not have anything to do with your restaurant, but please remember, decorate the plate, not the place."

Mamma Leone restaurant opened April 27, 1906 and the first customer was Enrico Caruso and remained open in Manhatten until 1994.