NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – About 85 years ago, Irene DeBenedittis’s Italian grandparents opened Leo’s Latticini, an iconic deli in Corona, Queens.
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“Corona was, at that time, country, and it was farms. It was not like it is today,” Irene said.
Today, Irene co-owns the shop with her sisters Marie and Carmela. They live upstairs, just above the deli and the recently added bakery, Mama’s Backyard Café.
“My sister Marie is the cook, and she does something different every day,” Irene said.
“We’re up to fifth-generation. So we don’t know how things are going to be going in the future. But as for now, we’re still here, and we’re doing the best we can.”
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Irene prepares and serves sandwiches over the same countertop that her grandmother used. She makes fresh mozzarella with the same time-tested family recipe.
“Sometimes you think, ‘So many years!’ You know? But anyway, it’s nice. It’s a good feeling. And that’s why people come back.”
Locals and visitors find their way to Mama’s without much help.
“It’s really word of mouth. We really never do any advertising or anything,” Irene said.
“We really should have a website. We don’t have a website. But people come, and they find us.”
The deli earned its nickname for Irene’s mother Nancy, affectionately called “Mama” by devoted customers. She was such a neighborhood role model that the local school P.S. 16 was renamed for her.
“Mom always sat in the corner here,” Irene said. “And she wasn’t political. She never went to any meetings of the neighborhood, but people all came to her all the time. They knew her. It was really a special thing.”
Irene carries on her mother’s tradition of interacting with customers.
“My mom, she instilled in us that, if you respect people, they will respect you back.”
Leo’s Latticini (“Mama’s of Corona”)
46-02 104th Street
Corona, NY 11368
Mama’s at Citi Field
Sections 105 and 415
123-01 Roosevelt Avenue
Queens, NY 11368
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