Under new ownership, Mac's hasn't changed a bit
The one thing Marco Lacagnina didn’t want to do was monkey around with the menu at Mac’s.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said last week at the grill beside Black Mountain Police Department. There was no reason to change up the burgers and Philly cheesesteaks that people had come to love during the nine years that Pam and Justin Makinson owned the restaurant, he said.
“I’ve been telling everyone, the only that’s changed is the accent” of the owner, Lacagnina said in his native New York accent.
In the five months that he and wife Kristin Lacagnina (“Laca-nina”) have owned the restaurant, not much else has changed, he said. And that’s the way he and their customers like it, he said. The name, the menu, the hand-cut fries are still the same.
Marco has a distinguished history in restaurants. His Italian-born great-uncle started a pizzeria in East Harlem in 1933, Patsy’s Pizzeria, that became something of a legend in New York. Pasquale “Patsy” Lancieri and his wife Carmella served up home cooking to the waves of Italians moving to America.
Their brick oven yield pizzas that introduced the pie to many native New Yorkers. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett were regulars. So were Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzutto of the New York Yankees. Francis Ford Coppola was so inspired by the restaurant that he shot a scene in “The Godfather” that evoked Patsy's Old World charm.
Marco owned and operated Marco’s Pizzeria in Asheville for 21 years, retiring after his children took it over. He took a few years off, and, with Kristen, went out. One of the places they would go was Mac’s. They got to know the Makinsons, and when they learned they wanted to return to Florida, Marco saw an opportunity to get back into the restaurant business.
He’s a restaurant kind of guy. He likes the kitchen camaraderie, and the satisfaction of feeding people well. “When they tell you that it was so good and (the restaurant) felt so good because the atmosphere, that’s the part that I really like the best – how people feel when they leave,” he said.
He’s always liked cooking. He’s from a big Italian family (he has 41 first cousins). Life for them centered around the kitchen table. “No matter what event has taken place – births, deaths, anniversaries, happy time, good times – it’s all around the table,” he said. “It’s just been an atmosphere of happiness.”
Growing up in Ozone Park, Queens, he worked in his uncle’s restaurant in Brooklyn. Then he and his brother opened a pizzeria on Long Island. Kitchen work can be stressful, “but there are so many good times,” he said. “The people that you meet are what get you through the times that are stressful.”
“Especially in Black Mountain,” he said. “Black Mountain is still a small town where people get together on a social level. I see the same faces, day in and day out. The police and fire department are right on the corner, so we see them. We have a group of Pickleball players that come in. A group of schoolchildren too.”
“Lots of friends that know you from the pizzeria,” Kristin said to him, continuing his thought.
“That’s been one of the nicest surprises,” he said. “Having people that I know from Asheville that have been coming into my pizzeria for so many years walk through the door, not knowing that we own this place – they’re shocked to see me here. They want to know when I’m going to put in a pizza oven. They’ve become regulars as well.”
About the only change Marco made was to hang his New York Yankees sport paraphernalia on the walls. He gets razzed by fans of the Atlanta Braves or, even more, of the Boston Red Sox. But he's glad the posters have found a home.
“He couldn’t keep it at the house anymore,” Kristin said, laughing.