It’s 3 p.m. on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx, and Filomena Magavero settles in for a late lunch inside the venerable Mario’s, a favorite Italian restaurant on this strip of Old World butcher shops, fish stores and bakeries. She sips a gin martini (“Is there any other kind?” Magavero gamely asks), and orders filet of flounder oreganata.
“Fish is my mainstay,” says the diminutive and neatly coiffed Magavero, eyes sparkling. “Plus, I grew up eating legumes, and I still like my lentils and chickpeas.” As for the martini? “I have one whenever I eat out — which is about five times per week — but I don’t drink at home, because I never want to drink alone.”
Magavero’s attitude belies her 94 years. What else accounts for the Bronx native’s longevity and spunky demeanor? She routinely walks 15 blocks from her apartment to the shopping district near Arthur Avenue, keeps herself looking good (manicured nails, pressed clothing, stretching exercises, a seemingly perpetual smile) and doesn’t allow frustrations to fester. “You should hear how I holler when I’m in my room all alone. [I yell,] ‘Why? Why is this happening?’ I don’t get an answer, but I do calm down.”
Magavero is living proof that it’s not only Italian old-timers in the Amalfi Coast village of Acciaroli who defy laws of aging and mortality, as The Post reported in early April. (The village is being studied in order to figure out why a high number of its citizens live past 100. A diet heavy in anchovies and rosemary seems to help; clean air and a relaxing lifestyle don’t hurt either.)
And she has company. A clutch of other Italian-Americans in the New York area show similar resistance to time. Whether or not they’re familiar with Acciaroli, New York City’s Italian oldsters instinctively embrace the town’s triumvirate of food, family and fun — and share a knack for floating above life’s frustrations.
“It doesn’t surprise me [about Acciaroli],” says 92-year-old Dottie Corrigan, who lives on Long Island with her daughter and is a long-standing believer in Atlantic City, NJ, slot machines as one-armed fountains of youth. “My grandmother and grandfather lived in Sicily beyond the age of 100.”