When Manero's Pizza first opened in the summer of 2019, it was, amazingly, the only place on Mulberry Street, the very heart of Little Italy, where you could get a slice. And though the partners behind the joint were seasoned restaurateurs — Nima Garos and Karoosh Bakhtiar run the vegan Mexican hotspots Jajaja, among other ventures; and Roman Grandinetti splits his time with the excellent sandwich shop Regina's Grocery over on Orchard Street — there has always been a labor of love feel to the place.
Little Italy is home turf for Garos, who grew up a block away on Baxter Street, and Grandinetti spent his youth in Bensonhurst scarfing down double-decker slices from Lenny's, a la Tony Manero in "Saturday Night Fever." And now, after Covid and other delays, the team has finally finished the second part of the venture with the opening of Manero's restaurant, located in the space adjacent to their pizza parlor and featuring a tight menu of neighborhood classics, disco queens everywhere you look, and a spacious back garden that has the potential to be seriously lit all summer long.
"We're a younger crew to the block, but we respect and understand the neighborhood," Grandinetti told Gothamist last week. "Nima's family has been here forever and seen all the changes. Also had all the fun. So though we are accommodating to tourists, we are more trying to bring something back to the community that was lost." In other words, here's a Little Italy restaurant that, they hope, New Yorkers will put into their regular rotation.
The two adjoining Manero's businesses share a kitchen, and most everything on the restaurant menu emerges from the pizza oven. Which means you get slabs of excellent focaccia with starters and bar snacks like the Mortadella Plate and the Whipped Ricotta, the latter of which features a pool of pesto amidst the sweet, fluffy cheese.
If you can, save some of that oily flatbread for Manero's trio of oversized Meatballs, which come in either standard beef or vegetarian-friendly mushroom varieties. The enormous Crispy Rice Balls are also available stuffed with beef or mushrooms.
There actually are a bunch of vegetarian dishes on the Manero's menu, including four different salads, three vegetable plates suitable for sharing and a stellar Eggplant Parm entree. This is perhaps less surprising than it sounds when you consider that Garos and his sister Nicole Galioto also run a vegan Italian deli up the block.
Familiar favorites like Baked Little Neck Clams, Shrimp Oreganata and a baller Steak Pizzaiola round out the Manero's restaurant offerings. And you can always order a pizza or three from next door. "We're not doing Neapolitan size pizzas here like everyone else on Mulberry," said Grandinetti. "We're doing classic New York City 20-inch monster pies put on your table."
That table might be set among the wooden booths up front by the bar — the cocktails are all named after Studio 54 legends or "Saturday Night Fever" heroes — or in the red-accented dining room in the rear, or in the garden out back, lorded over by a fantastic turquoise lion, a holdover from when this was John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia's place.
No matter where you sit, though, you'll be immersed in disco's heyday, whether from the wonderful array of photos and ephemera cluttered about, or from the playlist of dance classics, heavy on the B-sides, that Grandinetti put together himself (he used to spin professionally, under the name DJ Manero) to get people moving.
"The goal here," said Grandinetti, "is to have fun, be with your friends, enjoy some food and dance."
Manero's restaurant is located at 113 Mulberry Street, between Canal and Hester Streets, and is currently open on Thursday through Monday from 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight (@manerosofmanero)