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'Mama' Gelsomina Cosentino dies; Italian market owner was 81

Patricia Cosentino-Schutz with her mother, Gelsomina Cosentino,

Patricia Cosentino-Schutz with her mother, Gelsomina Cosentino, "...the driving force behind the family and the restaurant," and their pasta dish, Malfaldi Bravissimo. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

One of Gelsomina Cosentino's biggest pet peeves was when customers at her family's Italian market, Gemelli Fine Foods, would ask for linguine with white clam sauce.

"She would tell them, 'I can't cook it for you here because by the time you take it home, it's going to all stick together,' " her daughter Patricia Schutz of West Islip recalled. When one woman offered to have Cosentino over to her house to cook the dish, Schutz said, Cosentino didn't hesitate to accept the offer.

"She would do anything for you," her daughter said of the woman affectionately known as "Mama Gemelli."

Cosentino died July 30 at Broadlawn Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Amityville. The West Islip resident was 81.

Cosentino was born Gelsomina Piccolo in Sant'Anastasia, Italy, a small town just outside Naples, in 1934. She married Vincenzo Cosentino in 1954 and moved to the United States in 1969 with their daughter and two sons. Living in Ozone Park, she had another son and began working in a sewing factory. She also began cooking for her neighbors, making classic Neapolitan dishes that were so scrumptious that people offered her money for them.

"She was so taken aback that people wanted to pay for her food," her daughter said. "She said, 'I won't take their money.' "

The family moved to Franklin Square in 1985 and then to West Islip in 1993.

In 1988, Cosentino used her life savings to help the family open an 1,100-square-foot Italian market in Babylon. They did not cook food at the store at first, Schutz said. But one Sunday night as they were getting ready to close, a man showed up asking if they had lasagna. Schutz was about to tell him no, but Cosentino stopped her and said she would make him lasagna. Two days later the man returned to tell them that it was the best lasagna he'd ever had. Soon the family began selling hot food.

Four years later the business was so successful, they relocated to a 4,000-square-foot space and then several years later, at the urging of Cosentino, the family opened Ristorante Gemelli down the block.

"When we first opened up she said, 'I'm going to make it the way I cook it for my family, and if people don't like it, then they don't like it, but this is the way I know how to do it,' " her daughter said.

Family was crucial to Cosentino, whom her loved ones described as selfless with her time and love. Her granddaughter Alessia Schutz of West Islip recalled going to school around the block from Cosentino's house. "Every morning rain or shine there she was, standing outside," she said. "Her eyes were filled with so much love."

Cosentino, who enjoyed singing and embroidery in her spare time, would make several daily trips by foot between the store and restaurant, her daughter said, and could always be found in the kitchen, peeling, chopping and stirring. "She had to have her hands in everything," Schutz said.

Even after her memory began to fade eight years ago and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, she continued to cook, Patricia Schutz said. "Cooking still came to her naturally," she said. "She enjoyed it and it just showed."

In addition to her husband and daughter, other survivors include sons Vincent Cosentino of Oak Beach, Louie Cosentino and George Cosentino, both of Babylon; sisters Anna Prisco of Valley Stream, Louisa Desimone of Jackson, New Jersey, and Angela Trivoluzzi of Naples, Italy; brothers Michael Piccolo of Ozone Park and Carmine Piccolo of New Orleans; and 10 grandchildren.

Cosentino is buried in St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.


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