When New Yorkers walk into Leo's Latticini, a tiny provolone-scented food shop in the Corona section of Queens, they no longer act like New Yorkers.
Cops stand patiently in line, caps tipped back, gobbling samples of mozzarella freshly made in the back room and handed over the counter by Carmela Lamorgese, Irene DeBenedittis or Marie DeBenedittis, the three women my wife nicknamed the Mozzarella Sisters a few years ago, when we lived in nearby Forest Hills. Firemen returning from an emergency run double-park hook and ladders out front, on 104th Street. Their harrowing rescue behind them, they grab a Mama's Specialan Italian sub made with fresh mozzarellaand begin eating it even before they're out the door.
I'm not sure I understand what happens to customers who come to Leo'sor Mama's, as it's often calledbut the cause appears to be the exceptional sweetness of the sisters and their mother combined with the extraordinary goodness of the food. Leo's Latticini (latticini are dairy products) is a showcase of old-world virtues and familial affection. It is the most wonderful place I know, the kind of shop travelers hope to stumble upon in some remote Italian village, yet it's only a half hour from Manhattan on the No. 7 subway line.