He’s the delicacies cugine.
Meet Danny Mondello, the Rossville, Staten Island, native behind the wildly standard TikTok account “Meals_by_cug.”
Cug is brief for cugine, which suggests “cousin” in Italian, however can be a colloquial time period used to explain an Italian-American.
“After I made this web page, it was a persona. Cug isn’t Danny,” Mondello, 24, informed The Put up.
Mondello’s hyperbolic alter ego, which is distinctly outer-borough, has charmed a big swath of the web. He boasts 1.6 million TikTok followers and almost half 1,000,000 on Instagram, all tuning in for his meals opinions, which characteristic Italian-American slang, swigs of Weight loss plan Coke, intelligent one-liners and raunchy sister jokes delivered in his deep voice that sounds prefer it’s been simmering in Sunday sauce for eight hours. (His accent, by the best way, could be very actual.)
Mondello visits native joints, reviewing grub you may eat together with your fingers, like pizza and sandwiches, and concludes each video together with his grandpa-esque catchphrase, “Take care, brush ya hair.” He charges the meals on his “madone” scale.
And together with his unassuming persona, he’s standing out among the many throngs of self-styled meals influencers which have turn into ubiquitous. Scroll by means of TikTok or just stroll down the road in New York Metropolis, and also you’ll be visually assaulted by dudes yelling into the digital camera about mortadella on a roll, like Sam Kinison on a bender.
In different phrases, his power is extra Ray Romano, much less Man Fieri.
“I’m undoubtedly slightly totally different. I’m a down-to-earth, chill man, and I don’t exhibit. I’m carrying plain-Jane garments, no jewellery. My look and my accent are totally different. My accent doesn’t match what I appear like,” he stated of his attract, including that he has makes use of “old-school allure in a brand new approach. Additionally, I’m not screaming on the digital camera. I feel individuals like that. I’m not a wack job.”
Mondello wasn’t chasing web fame. Whereas incomes an accounting diploma at SUNY New Paltz, he moved off campus with two roommates in 2017, and his mom made a proposal. “My mom was like, ‘You need to exit and eat, you’re going to pay for it. However when you go to the grocery retailer and cook dinner, I’ll pay.’ What am I? An fool?’ ”
He turned the home chef, and to entertain his pals, Mondello chronicled his meal prep, exhibiting solely the meals, not his face. After commencement, he landed an accounting job, however after 5 days, he stop.
“There was no motion. Nobody was speaking,” he stated.
He turned a line cook dinner at a restaurant in New Paltz and continued creating content material for a couple of hundred followers as a interest. However in July of final 12 months, whereas visiting Rossi and Sons Rossi Rosticceria in Poughkeepsie, he stepped in entrance of the lens and reviewed a roast beef sandwich, noting within the TikTok video: “You’ll get in all probability coronary heart illness by 26, however it’s price it.” The submit racked up 440,000 views.
“I don’t know why I did it, however I used to be speaking like a gavone, and folks preferred it. So I ran with it,” he stated. His on-line following swelled, and in September, he ventured to the Feast of San Gennaro, the place he was repeatedly stopped by excited pageant goers who acknowledged him. That journey down Mulberry Avenue led to an epiphany: “I stated, ‘I received one thing right here.’ I went residence and put in my two weeks at my job.”
In November, Nicolas Heller, a okay a the inventive behind the favored account New York Nico, began commonly that includes Mondello, which helped balloon his visibility on Instagram.
“Earlier than that, I used to be small potatoes on Instagram,” quipped Mondello.
Now he’s commonly approached by followers. On-line, he’s adopted by celebrities together with Drake, comic Andrew Schulz and singer Charlie Puth, to call a couple of. Two weeks in the past, he met comic Sebastian Maniscalco at an occasion on Lengthy Island. “He known as me out. Stated, ‘Cug, how are ya?’ “
And the one Mondello stated ladies commonly drop into his DMs, generally making sister jokes. Nonetheless, the self-described “gentleman” stated, “I don’t know if I’d date a woman who slid into my DMs.”
In January, he moved again to Staten Island and is incomes money by means of sponsorships, merch and making movies on the location Cameo. In a month, he can be unveiling a meals product, which is a collaboration with one other influencer. However he’s attempting to remain as contemporary because the mozzarella at Royal Crown bakery, his favourite sandwich spot in Staten Island.
“I can’t do that endlessly. In 20 years, I’m not going to be consuming sandwiches in entrance of a digital camera. I’ve to search out one thing else to do,” he stated, including that he’s taking a discerning strategy to diversifying, whereas stopping to scent the braciola.
“This all occurred so fast, I haven’t had an opportunity take all of it in.”
Right here, Cug shouts out the purveyors of his favourite New York grub:
For pastries, Mondello favors Villabate Alba, an “old fashioned” Bensonhurst bakery. Their cannolis are contemporary, he stated, including, “I feel their ricotta cheese is sick. I don’t know what the hell they f – – king do to it. I’m speechless. The presentation can be very good.”
7001 18th Ave., Brooklyn; 718-331-8430
In relation to pie, Cug goes together with his intestine and his childhood recollections. “It’s a nostalgia factor for me. I just like the white pie at Denino’s,” he stated of the Staten Island staple. “They throw onions on it, and I like onions, so I keep it up.”
524 Port Richmond Ave., Staten Island; 718-442-9401
In his residence borough, he builds his personal sandwich at Royal Crown bakery. However in Brooklyn, he’s hitting up Anthony and Son in Williamsburg. “Their sandwiches are nicely constructed and artistic . . . And it’s at all times energetic in there.” His choose? The Godfather with prosciutto, capocollo, sopressata, salami, pepperoni, mortadella, contemporary mozzarella, arugula and balsamic French dressing.
433 Graham Ave., Brooklyn; 718-383-7395
“I like a sesame bagel, they usually put seeds on the highest and backside. It’s my neighborhood spot,” he stated of Pio Hot Bagels.
655 Rossville Ave., Staten Island; 718-605-6100
“I like the money bags pasta at Patrizia’s. I do not know what they put within the sauce, however it’s phenomenal,” he stated of the stuffed pasta in a mushroom-and-prosciutto cream sauce often called fioretti alla boscaiola.
4255 Amboy Street, Staten Island; 718-317-6600