When it comes to the Business 101 mantra “location, location, location,” the family-run Trattoria 632 certainly hit pay dirt when it opened 10 years ago on Anderson Hill Road in Purchase.
“It’s directly across from (Purchase College and we’re about 300 yards away from (PepsiCo’s) world headquarters,” says general manager Anthony J. Mangone, whose mother, Marie, owns the restaurant. “Around the corner is Mastercard’s world headquarters and Morgan Stanley. Then you have Manhattanville College and then, of course, all of the corporate along the King Street viaduct. We’re uniquely positioned in the area.”
Over the past decade, Mangone says the restaurant received “tremendous support from the community throughout that entire time, and we’ve grown with the community.” But with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry faced its greatest existential threat in modern times. Mercifully for Mangone, the goodwill and rapport that Trattoria 632 built paid off when the going became more than tough.
“We are extremely lucky to know that during this entire time the community is giving back to us and they’ve supported us throughout that entire process,” he says.
Mangone acknowledges that Trattoria 632 was luckier than many of its competitors, because it operated takeout and delivery options for years, thus enabling it to pivot to the new not-normal with greater efficiency. The restaurant’s patio was put into use when the moratorium on outdoor dining was lifted and the resumption of indoor dining allowed Mangone to welcome back many patrons, albeit in an environment with a 50% capacity seating limit.
Nonetheless, getting from mid-March’s abrupt business shutdown to today’s not-entirely-normal situation created more than a little stress for Mangone and his team.
“It’s been a struggle,” he says, exhaling. “We’ve had to adapt to a change in behavioral economics. There have been heightened levels of concern as to who’s delivering the food and, with compliance regulations set forth by the CDC and the governor’s office, who’s preparing the food. Ultimately, we’re trying to create an environment where people continue to feel comfortable having you deliver and prepare food for them and their families. And that’s been what’s most difficult — trying to install that confidence.”
Still, the stress of the past several months took its toll on the establishment, most notably in regards to staffing.
“I was able to keep most of my staff,” Mangone continues. “I would say about 80% to 85% of my staff stayed on board. Those are people that have been with me the longest and we tried to do it based on a seniority level. And little by little, we’re bringing people back as sales starts to increase and people become more comfortable with going out to restaurants.”
Mangone adds he currently has 12 people working at the restaurant, and he credits the staff with being a key element in its success.
“Most of the people that work on our team have been with us in excess of four to five years,” he says. “That’s not ordinary in the restaurant business, which tends to be very transient in nature. We make sure we provide a very comfortable work atmosphere where each person — from the dishwasher to the busboy to the chefs to the servers — is an important part of making our business grow.”
Of course, the food helps to bring patrons in, and Mangone highlights Trattoria 632’s veal chop as its most popular staple while insisting the pizza is “probably the best pizza around.” Mangone’s mother also serves as pastry chef, and her carrot cake and cheesecake are top favorites with the sweet-tooth crowd.
The kitchen is also busy with a rotation of specials — Mangone recommends the pistachio-crusted halibut — adding that “it’s important for people to have variety.” Creating specials is one of Mangone’s happier experiences at the restaurant. The filet of sole stuffed with jumbo lump crab meat and served over spinach or quinoa is his favorite.
“We spend a fair amount of time exploring different ideas and working with the members of my kitchen in coming up with creative ideas to serve to our community,” he says. “We know that we’re very fortunate that people come here three or four days a week, so the last thing they want to see is the same special on the menu every week. We have to be on our toes so that we’re showing people that we can do different things.
“For instance,” he adds, “last evening we had a stuffed beefsteak tomato, with farro, kalamata olives, provolone cheese and pine nuts. Tonight, we’re going to be featuring zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and ricotta. We have dayboat scallops over vegetable farro. We like to move those items around and offer different ideas so when people come in, they’re not just getting the same staple items that are on everyday menu.”
Mangone is beginning to see the restaurant’s catering business trickle back as more people return to work, although it is still some distance from where it had been. He looks forward to the end of the coronavirus and a brighter future.
“Hopefully, by that point, the science will have caught up with the virus and there will be a cure where people will feel comfortable going out again,” he says. “The hospitality industry has been decimated by the thought of people going into a restaurant and catching this virus. Although there’s been no scientific evidence showing that people were catching it in a restaurant, we’ve been labeled with that bias. If there is a cure a year from now, I believe our establishment will be even stronger and our customers will be back. I think people are pent up in their homes and want to be able to enjoy themselves.”
For more, visit trattoria632.com.