New traditional Italian restaurant in Medina taps into family recipes

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 20 February 2022 at 9:50 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Jerry Mandell, owner of Gennaro’s Pastaria at 701 South Main St. in Medina, stands under a picture of his mother and aunt, who first started an Italian restaurant in Rochester.

MEDINA – Making the leap from owner of Jerry’s Record Tree to an Italian restaurant was a no-brainer for Jerry Mandell.

A Rochester native, Mandell had his record shop in three locations – Spencerport, Henrietta and Greece, when his mother Louise and aunt Vi wanted to open a store to sell their homemade cookies.

Mandell rented a space to them. He said Bea Suhr from Lyndonville had a sewing shop behind his store. When more space became available, Mandell said the landlord let them remodel space for a restaurant, and Gennaro’s opened in 1985.

“My mother and aunt opened on a Wednesday in their restaurant which sat 46 people,” Mandell said. “They ran out of sauce the first night.”

He said all their food was homemade, as is their menu at Gennaro’s Pastaria in Medina. His mother made her sauce the traditional Italian way, with neck bones and pigs feet, and letting it simmer for eight hours. He said they made meatballs 25 to 30 pounds at a time.

After only three weeks in business, Louise and Vi asked Jerry to become partners with them. He sold his record business and joined them. He started first as the maître de and then became bartender.

When his mother and aunt aged to the point they were ready to give up the restaurant, Mandell knew they would be a hard act to follow, so went back to selling stereo equipment. He also became a life coach, which he continues to do today.

When Jerry and his wife Donna decided they wanted to get out of the city, they started looking for a home in the suburbs.

“Medina struck our fancy and we bought a home here,” Mandell said.

He had mentioned to his realtor, Renee Schuner, that he would like to open a small Italian restaurant, and she told him about the small building on the corner of Main and Starr streets, which had formerly been a barbecue place.

“My wife told me I was crazy to open a restaurant at 70, but I want people to be able to enjoy authentic Italian food,” Mandell said. “It is also a tribute to my mother and my aunt.”

A lot of his recipes are his mother’s and aunts, but he adds that he has tweaked them a little bit. Donna, who holds a full-time time with Paychex, makes the family’s special lasagna.

Jerry Mandell stands in doorway of the kitchen in his new pastaria in Medina. The restaurant is designed for take-outs, but a limited number of tables are available for those who want to eat there.

Their menu includes soups, such as Italian wedding, greens and beans, pasta fagioli and their special tomato-based broccoli soup. For appetizers, they have artichokes French, tomato salad and garlic bread with cheese.

A variety of pastas can be ordered with meatballs, sausage, red or white clam sauce and garlic and oil, with optional broccoli and olives.

Specialty dishes include eggplant parmesan, lasagna, gnocchi, cheese ravioli and linguine primavera. Chicken selections are chicken French, chicken marsala, chicken parmigiana and chicken cacciatore. In addition, they offer fettucini alfredo with chicken or chicken and broccoli.

Italian sausage sandwich, meatball sub and chicken parm complete their sandwich menu, along with a personal pan pizza.

They now have traditional Italian desserts, such as miniature cream puffs, cannolis and pizza fritte (fried dough). In the spring Mandell plans to begin offering rum cakes and lemon squares.

All food is cooked to order, and soon he plans to offer other specialties, such as fried escarole with bread crumbs and calamata olives, chicken or steak Gennaro with sherry wine, provolone cheese and capers.

Rebekah Champlin of Medina is manager of the pastaria. For now they are open from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. In the spring, Mandell hopes to open for lunch and offer outdoor seating. The phone number for reservations is (585) 318-4219.