A Bronx Tale of Persistence

Tara Cannistraci was finishing dinner with a friend at El Barrio in Scarsdale, N.Y., in early May 2017, when Michael Todd Mondrone, a part owner of the Mexican restaurant, sent over some sorbet as a way to introduce himself. “She thanked me on her way out,” Mr. Mondrone said. “I asked her to stay.”

Ms. Cannistraci wasn’t 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 pleased 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 responded, “and a pinot noir.”

This time she stayed and talked with him at the restaurant bar for a couple of hours.

Mr. Mondrone enjoyed their witty back-and-forth banter. He was persistent in asking Ms. Cannistraci on a date. She remained uninterested, however, assuming he was merely playing the field. “She joked, ‘I’ll sleep with you, but I’m not going out with you’,” Mr. Mondrone said. Finally, she agreed to see him again.

Raised in the Bronx, Ms. Cannistraci, 42, is a graduate of Pace University and works as a stand-up comedian. Mr. Mondrone, 47, who had his first marriage annulled, lived in the Bronx until the age of 8 and is a graduate of Iona College. He is the owner of Statewide Adjustment, a public insurance adjuster in New York, in addition to being a partner in El Barrio.

Their relationship progressed quickly. On their first official date, Ms. Cannistraci spoke openly about having frozen her eggs. Days later, Mr. Mondrone asked her to accompany him to his brother’s place on Mother’s Day. She declined, but “I kind of knew where he was coming from,” Ms. Cannistraci said. “We instantly felt so comfortable with each other.”

Even though Ms. Cannistraci didn’t meet Mr. Mondrone’s mother that day, he still included her in the holiday. When he later visited her house, “he wrote out a Mother’s Day card from my eggs,” she said. “That’s when I knew this guy was funny. I could tell he was different.”

Three weeks into dating, they became exclusive. By October, she had moved into his house in Pelham, N.Y.

[Click here to binge read this week’s featured couples.]

Mr. Mondrone proposed Jan. 22, 2019 at the Milton Berle Room at the Friars Club in Midtown Manhattan. Ms. Cannistraci had thought she arrived at the club to perform a comedy show. Finding an empty room and Mr. Mondrone down on one knee, she asked, “So, I’m not performing tonight?” She then said yes.

The couple had initially planned a June 2020 wedding, but had to reschedule four times because of the pandemic. They married June 25 before 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. The Rev. Robert Verrigni, a Roman Catholic priest from Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady Parish in Tuckahoe, N.Y., officiated.

The black-tie-optional reception took place at the Bronx Zoo, a nod to their upbringing in the borough.

With welcome drinks, guests walked through the Madagascar area of the zoo property to arrive at the outdoor cocktail hour by the sea lion exhibit. There a violinist played and mozzarella was made and served. There was also freshly sliced prosciutto, an Aperol spritz cart and shucked oysters.

Inside the Schiff Family Great Hall, where the reception was held, the couple shared their first dance to “The Way You Look Tonight,” originally performed by Fred Astaire and sung by the tribute artist Frankie Sands.

Performers from the musical “Jersey Boys” showcased five songs. Other entertainers included a saxophone player, a percussionist and a D.J.

Guests dined at a carving station, as well as stations set up for ravioli and sushi, while they watched an artist live-painting the party. Other food choices included brick oven pizza, gelato, Nutella desserts and a whiskey bar, along with additional vendors stationed outside the reception hall on the terrace. “I wanted it circus style,” Ms. Cannistraci said of the reception’s festive eclecticism.

Upon exiting the hall, a sign read, “Spread love the Bronx way,” offering an assortment of bagels from Just Bagels, which carries the slogan “Made in ’Da the Bronx,” to guests as they departed. “I tried to use, whenever possible, a Bronx vendor or a Bronx-born vendor,” she said. “I’m very proud to originally be from the Bronx.”