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Friday, November 28, 2014

‘Two generators and a prayer’
Island Park restaurant opened two days after Sandy, despite long odds
Alex Costello/Herald
John Manzo, left, with the staff of his restaurant: Eduardo, Christine, Mirta and Pat. Manzo said that they are the reason he was able to reopen after the storm.

The grand opening of M’s, one of Island Park’s newest eateries, was rather short-lived. Owner John Manzo opened the restaurant’s doors on Oct. 28, only to close them the following day, as Hurricane Sandy moved in. The next time he opened them, it was to drain the water that flooded his establishment during the storm.

But by Halloween, M’s was back in business — one of the only places in town that was cooking hot meals.

Manzo, 49, has spent 32 years in the food business. The building that houses M’s belongs to a friend of his who asked Manzo if he thought he could turn the property, which has been home to many unsuccessful Island Park restaurants, into a place that would attract diners. It was a challenge Manzo accepted.

It took him six weeks to redo the interior. His vision was to make it an ice cream bar, with inexpensive but good food. “The meals are ridiculously inexpensive,” Manzo said. “They’re designed so that a family of four can come out and enjoy themselves and stay under $50. And have a really good meal.”

But Sandy complicated his plans.

Manzo, who lives in Bellmore, drove to the restaurant after the storm, while the streets of Island Park were still flooded. “A boat chased me,” he recalled. He found the restaurant flooded, and opened the front and back doors to let the water drain out, which, he believes, helped minimize the damage.

It took 36 hours of nonstop work and help from family members and friends, but the restaurant managed to reopen. “My mother-in-law was in the back — 80 years old, God bless her — cleaning the grills,” Manzo said. The volunteers peeled back the paneling and coated it with mold repellent, then repainted all of the walls with anti-mold paint. They threw away all of the framed pictures just to be safe. Because the lower walls of the restaurant are brick, the water never got high enough to damage the sheetrock.

A day and a half after the worst storm in decades, M’s opened its doors to the public once more, though its menu was greatly reduced.

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