The facade of Il Triangolo, a wedge of a restaurant in north-central Queens at the sharply angled intersection of Corona Avenue and Junction Boulevard, isn’t much broader than the door. But the entryway opens to a space that widens in both directions, like arms extended for a hug. This is a gesture not atypical for the owner, Mario Gigliotti, who usually greets guests, “Welcome to my home.”
An immigrant from Calabria, Italy, who moved to Corona with his family when he was 8, Mr. Gigliotti has a serious smile and is prone to wearing dark suits. His parents were factory workers, but his mother also liked to cook Italian delicacies and his father had a knack for real estate, purchasing and refurbishing properties around the neighborhood, including the triangular-shaped structure at 96-01 Corona Avenue.
Growing up in the 1970s and ’80s in Corona and as a young man who stayed loyal to the neighborhood, Mr. Gigliotti, now 51, spent a lot of his time at local old-school Italian restaurants, especially Park Side. “I used to love that scene,” he said. “You get dressed up and go out to different restaurants. It’s the love of food and wine and talking to people. I had that love at home, and I wanted to bring that love to people.”
When the tenants of the odd-shaped building — formerly a pizzeria in the front and a social club in the back — moved out, Mr. Gigliotti seized the opportunity to create his own restaurant. He designed the new layout and did all the work himself, opening Il Triangolo in April 2011. Four years later, he completed an expansion.
The interior is of brick and wood and warm colors. What you won’t see are cellphones on tables, hats on heads or coats on chairs. There is also a dress code (no shorts or tank tops). Mr. Gigliotti is very particular about his manner of hospitality. “I feel this is my home,” he said. “I expect people to respect that. People said that I was crazy having all these rules, especially with the phones, but they thank me now because they taste the food and enjoy their company. And they look nice, too.”
The waiters are mannered and friendly, dressed in suits like their boss, and move easily between the kitchen and the two dining rooms. Behind a small bar, Pierina Gigliotti, the Calabrese wife of Mr. Gigliotti, 48, is busy filling drink orders and answering the phone.
“Of course,” Ms. Gigliotti said to a customer who called to ask for a special cake for the next day. “I’m going to make it for you.”
This bespoke approach to food is evident in a menu of southern Italian staples, regional specialties from around the peninsula, nightly specials and signature creations, such as a tribute to Mr. Gigliotti’s mother in “Homemade Tagliolini di Mamma Angela,” which features house-made soppressata in a light tomato sauce.
Tommy DiNatale was on his fourth straight Saturday night at Il Triangolo. “I go to different restaurants all over the city, and this is the best,” he said. “The food is fabulous, the waiters are terrific, and the thing is, it makes you feel at home. I tell everyone to eat here, and now I sometimes have a hard time getting a table.”
Reservations are recommended for a weekend night or the Sunday ragu, which is why many, like Joe and Margie Cantara, have a standing reservation for both weekend nights. “This place deserves a Michelin star,” Mr. Cantara said. “The food is really, really creative. We’re both good cooks ourselves, so we know what we’re talking about.”
“Our favorite table is right by the kitchen, so we can see what comes out,” Ms. Cantara added. “We call it the shrine.”
Published on The New York Times: Old School Italian in Queens: Red Sauce, Yes; Cellphones, No