Ten years ago, in the first issue of “More Good News” in October 2011, the first of our “Next Generation” articles featured then-16-year-old Anastasia Mancuso. Ana’s life has changed considerably over the last decade, becoming a wife, mother and business owner.
You were the first young person to be featured in the first issue of “More Good News.” How has your life changed over the last 10 years?
My life has changed drastically since 2011. I graduated high school and college. I also got married, had two children and opened a business in Utica.
You’re married now and have two young children, quite a big difference from that 16-year-old. How would you describe your family and your life together?
I love my family and I always knew I wanted to be mom. It has been such a fun and different adventure. I met my husband when I was 16 and started dating two years later.
In addition to raising a family, you also own Luna’s Mexican Bar and Grill in Utica. You majored in psychology and said way back when you wanted to become a doctor. Please describe how Luna’s came into being.
Being a doctor came to a screeching halt when I started my clinicals and had to deal with blood. I changed my major to psychology after working at Insight House. After I graduated, I did not feel that was the path I wanted to follow at the time. So, my husband supported me in opening our first business, which was a food truck. I did the food truck for about two years and then we found a beautiful building for sale in the prime location of Varick Street. I sold the food truck and made shop at Luna’s.
You chose Mexican fare for your restaurant. How did that decision come about?
Our first choice was Italian, but the Utica and New Hartford area have so much good Italian food. We knew we had to choose something different. We love Mexican food and we thought it would be a great choice for people to pair with some cocktails in the fun Varick bar scene.
Of course, like many other eating establishments, you were hit by the pandemic. How have you been able to cope and keep the business running?
The pandemic hit seven months after we opened. It was definitely a shocker, and we would not have made it without the amazing support of our community through takeout orders.
Back in 2011, you said your dad was the biggest influence in your life. How has he been influential over the last 10 years.
My dad has always supported my goals even if he did not totally agree. He did not want me to open a restaurant at first because he knows the amount of work and dedication it takes to succeed in this industry. But he is the reason that I am and will be successful in food service.
Your dad has owned Tasty Treat in North Utica for many years. Did you learn any business skills from him that you employ at your restaurant?
I was taught from a very young age by him how to do all I know. He has taught me everything from customer service, to hiring people, to the back-of-the-house jobs. In fact, he even works for me during his off season.
At age 16, you said, “God is like my best friend.” Is he still your best friend?
I think God will always be like a best friend to me because He is always there and never judges. To me, that is the definition of a best friend.
Your children are very young now, but what do you hope to teach them about your Catholic faith?
I hope my children get to have the same experiences as I did growing up in the Catholic Church. I made many friends and I still have those relationships today. I want them to explore their faith within the church and I know they will.
What do you hope the future holds for you and your family?
I hope that I have continued success in my business and, hopefully, some day my husband can quit his job and work alongside me.
Family: Husband Richard, children Stassi (2) and Bruno (1), father Michael Mancuso, mother Michelle Mancuso, sisters Isabella and Angelina Mancuso.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in psychology from SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Employment: Owner of Luna’s Mexican Bar and Grill on Varick Street in Utica.
Favorite movie: “Titanic.”
Favorite TV show: “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Favorite quote: “Live every day like it’s your last.”