On Jan. 5, 2011, Stella Stango Cocchiola turned 94 years old, but has no plans to retire.
Instead, Cocchiola works everyday doing what she loves most: maintaining , which her family started in 1919.
Cocchiola's mother and father both emigrated from Italy and met in America, she said. Her father, Frank, originally worked in the sterling silver and flatware industry in Brooklyn, but after falling ill from the harmful fumes and toxins, the couple decided to move to the countryside in Glen Cove.
While Frank continued to commute to the city, Cocchiola said that he would often return home to Glen Cove with fruit.
"He would bring great, big bunches of bananas, and people would see them and they’d say, ‘can’t we buy some from you?’” she said.
Cocchiola said that her parents then decided to start a business by putting a few tables together and making lunch for the people who went to work.
After her father passed away, Cocchiola became her mother’s right hand.
“She was fantastic and strong,” Cocchiola recalled. “She had the business brain, really.”
As a student at St. Patrick's School, Cocchiola said she was eased into the business. She began by helping her mother with customers and the succeeding generations of her family followed suit. Her sons are now in charge, and her grandchildren are waiters at Stango's.
“I always loved people, and talking to people,” she said. “I used to sit with whoever I served and they would tell me their stories, lots of very interesting stories.”
Since its inception, the restaurant, located on Grove Street, has developed a loyal band of customers.
“Those people that are sitting there have been coming here since they were just kids,” she said, pointing to a table of four individuals. She continued to look around the room, recognizing the familiar faces of those who have frequented the restaurant for years.
“See the girl who’s sitting here in front of me with the red hat? We grew up together.”
The dining room this evening is warm, friendly and full of smiling families, a wonderful alternative to the frigid temperatures just outside the door. Bluesy classics play in the background, giving the freshly cooked food an extra home-style feel.
“It’s like having company every night, and you don’t have to reciprocate,” Cocchiola said.
Aside from diligently answering the phones, taking down orders, and going over the menu with the chef, Cocchiola keeps busy with her favorite hobby: drawing.
In addition to serving up hearty Italian meals for almost a century, Cocchiola showcases her artistic talent. Scenic paintings of landscapes and animals are spread across every wall of the dining room.
“The thing that I love the most, is when people say, ‘When I come here, I’m home.’”