Tara Cannistraci was finishing dinner with a friend at El Barrio in Scarsdale, NY in early May 2017 when Michael Todd Mondrone, co-owner of the Mexican restaurant, sent over a sherbet to introduce himself. “She thanked me on her way out,” Mr. Mondrone said. “I asked him to stay.”
Ms. Cannistraci was not interested. She told him she had to work, and when he asked for her phone number, she instead handed him her business card with an email address. “I didn’t want him to have my number,” she said.
Twenty minutes after leaving the restaurant, Ms. Cannistraci received an email from Mr. Mondrone. He wrote that he was happy to meet her and her friend and also informed her that one of them had left a pair of sunglasses behind. Then he asked her to join him for a drink. “I’m coming back for the glasses,” she replied, “and a pinot noir.”
This time she stayed and talked with him at the restaurant bar for a few hours.
Mr. Mondrone enjoyed their witty banter. He persisted in asking Mrs. Cannistraci for an appointment. She remained indifferent, however, assuming he was just playing the field. “She joked, ‘I’m going to sleep with you, but I’m not dating you,'” Mr Mondrone said. Finally, she agreed to see him again.
Raised in the Bronx, Ms. Cannistraci, 42, graduated from Pace University and works as a comedian. Mr. Mondrone, 47, whose first marriage was annulled, lived in the Bronx until he was 8 and graduated from Iona College. He is the owner of Statewide Adjustment, a public insurance adjuster in New York, in addition to being associated with El Barrio.
Their relationship progressed rapidly. On their first official date, Ms Cannistraci spoke openly about freezing her eggs. A few days later, Mr. Mondrone asked her to accompany him to his brother’s house on Mother’s Day. She refused, but “I kind of knew where he was coming from,” Ms Cannistraci said. “We immediately felt so comfortable with each other.”
Even though Mrs. Cannistraci did not meet Mr. Mondrone’s mother that day, he still included her in the vacation. When he later visited her house, “he wrote a Mother’s Day card out of my eggs,” she said. “That’s when I knew this guy was funny. I could tell he was different.
Three weeks after they met, they became exclusive. By October, she had moved into her home in Pelham, NY
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Mr. Mondrone proposed on Jan. 22, 2019, at the Milton Berle Room at the Friars Club in Midtown Manhattan. Mrs. Cannistraci had thought she had arrived at the club to put on a comedy show. Finding an empty room and Mr. Mondrone on his knees, she asked, “So I’m not playing tonight?” She then said yes.
The couple had originally planned a wedding in June 2020, but had to postpone four times due to the pandemic. They married on June 25 in front of 200 guests at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in the Bronx, where Ms. Cannistraci’s maternal grandparents and Mr. Mondrone’s parents were married. Rev. Robert Verrigni, a Roman Catholic priest from Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady Parish in Tuckahoe, NY, officiated.
The optional black-tie reception was held at the Bronx Zoo, a nod to their upbringing in the borough.
With a welcome drink, guests walked through the Madagascar area of the zoo property to arrive at outdoor cocktail hour near the sea lion exhibit. There a violinist played and mozzarella was prepared and served. Also had freshly sliced prosciutto, an Aperol spritz cart and shucked oysters.
Inside the Schiff Family Great Hall, where the reception took place, the couple shared their first dance to “The Way You Look Tonight”, originally performed by Fred Astaire and sung by the artist Frankie Sands tribute.
The performers of the musical “Jersey Boys” presented five songs. Other performers included a saxophonist, percussionist and DJ
Guests dined at a sculpting station, as well as stations set up for ravioli and sushi, while watching an artist paint the party live. Other food choices included brick oven pizza, ice cream, Nutella desserts and a whiskey bar, plus additional vendors stationed outside the reception hall on the terrace. “I wanted circus style,” Ms. Cannistraci said of the reception’s festive eclecticism.
Upon exiting the lobby, a sign read “Spread love the Bronx way,” offering an assortment of bagels from Just Bagels, which bears the slogan “Made in ‘Da the Bronx,” to guests as they depart. “I tried to use, whenever possible, a Bronx salesperson or a Bronx-born salesperson,” she said. “I’m very proud to be from the Bronx.”