Nancy DeBenedittis MAMA’S WAY

On May 29, 1919, Nancy Leo, the oldest of five children, was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her parents, Francesco Leo and Irene Fiore, emigrated from Bari, Italy, in 1917. After working on the railroad and then in the ice and coal business for some time, Francesco went into the food business, opening his first store in Brooklyn, on Lorimer and Skillman Avenues.

Nancy and her sisters, Mary, Lily and Grace, and their brother, Al, attended P.S. 132 in Brooklyn. They often came to Corona, Queens, for "vacation" since Corona at that time was still mainly farms and countryside.

In the early 1930s, the family moved to Corona where Nancy's parents set down roots and opened Leo's Latticini, later to become known as "Mama's," an affectionate nickname given to Nancy when she was raising her daughters.

Nancy Leo worked at Leo's Latticini alongside her parents for some time. Then, during World War II, she became one of the first pioneer women to help in the war effort. In November 1942, Nancy completed the airplane assembly course at Delehanty Institute. She then joined the ranks of women riveters working for American Export Airlines on some of the first non-stop transatlantic flight planes carrying passengers, cargo and mail overseas.

A few years later, Nancy took a vacation to visit her aunts in Italy and met her future husband, Frank DeBenedittis, who was born in Corato, Bari, Italy. They were married on August 29, 1948, in Rome's St. Peter's Basillica.

Years later, when Nancy's parents retired, she and Frank took over the family store and continued in the food business. They worked very hard serving the community while raising their loving family. They had three daughters, Carmela, Irene and Marie, all of whom attended St. Leo's Elementary School in Corona.

Carmela, the oldest, married Oronzo Lamorgese and owns Leo's Ravioli and Pasta Shop in Corona. Their daughter, Marie Geiorgina, who is married to Fiore DiFelo, is a teacher at P.S. 16 in Corona. They have one child, Mama's first great-grandchild.

Irene, a former New York City public school teacher, joined the family business in order to keep the family traditions alive.

Marie, though the youngest, has been in the store the longest. She, like her mother and grandmother, is very business-minded and also an excellent cook who strives for quality in all she does.

In 1985, Frank, who was a major part of the family business, passed away at the age of 73. He was sorely missed by everyone. After Frank's passing, Nancy, with her daughters, decided to continue on with the family business and for years Nancy became known as "Mama" to everyone.

After so many years of dedication to family and community, Mama passed away in 2009 at the age of 90. Upon her passing, there was a true expression of love and appreciation by all her patrons, neighbors and friends for all she had done for the community.

When many of the original Corona residents moved away to "better neighborhoods," Mama stayed and lived and worked with the community's people. She instilled in all her family a sense of discipline, respect for each other and good character. She was truly a wonderful role model for all.

Throughout her lifetime, Nancy saw immense change. From ice and coal to refrigeration and gas heat, from radio and television all the way to today's world of computers.

She made everyone around her appreciate all the little things in life that are special and "Mama," Nancy DeBenedittis, was truly a special person.


Gil Tauber, "NYC Honorary Street Names," accessed June 15, 2022,

Tammy Scileppi, " 'Mama’ DeBenedittis, of Corona deli, dies," Queens Chronicle, December 10, 2009,

Howard Koplowitz, "Corona honors ‘Mama’ with celebratory street rename,", August 10, 2011,