As I trudged across the vast lobby of PGA National Resort in search of the elevators, the concierge caught my eye.
Maybe it was the curly dark hair. Maybe it was the omnipresent smile. Maybe it was the sweet sound of a soft voice with a trace of old Sicily. Or maybe it was the appeal of a svelte woman in uniform.
For those reasons and more, I made the acquaintance of Antonella Mancino, who is not only pretty and personable, but polished, professional, and approachable. She is also living proof that you can take the girl out of New York but you can’t take New York out of the girl.
Though she lives and works in South Florida, she can’t escape New York and doesn’t want to.
Every day, guests from the five boroughs beseech her with queries, questions, and often difficult-to-fill demands. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
“New Yorkers are very alive, upbeat, on the go all the time,” she says. “They’re high-energy because they live in the City that never sleeps.
“New Yorkers know what they want. They may be more demanding but in a good way; I am demanding, too. New York is a place that’s always on the go.
“People in Florida are like palm trees. They’re not New Yorkers who say ‘I need it now, I want it now.’ I understand them because I am one of them.”
Mancino left Italy at age 15, learned English in the 10th grade, and eventually graduated with honors. She worked in Manhattan as a model and actress, but also worked as a stockbroker, and later as an interior designer.
“I’m always going to be a New Yorker,” says the raven-haired concierge, still striking at age 52.
“I love where I live but my home base is the Big Apple. Nobody can ever take that away from me.”
Although her past includes more modeling gigs than movie roles, Mancino’s face may be familiar to New York Natives readers because of her work in The Sopranos and The Producers.
“One of the places I went to in New York was a hotel where they spoke only Italian,” she says. “I was there twice. You go in and you feel like you’re in Italy. The chef knew what he was doing, too. I love Italian restaurants. In fact, people asked me to go with their clients because I spoke Italian.”
She worked as a translator at Tavern on the Green, enjoyed the restaurant at the Wollmann Skating Rink, and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. “I like nice things,” she admits.
One of the nicest things in her life is her two-year stint at PGA National Resort. “I enjoy my life. I see the sun every day. We have the intracoastal, the ocean, and a great climate. If I want to run in the morning, I run. I can ride my bike. It’s not like I have to worry about winter anymore.”
Mancino, a cancer survivor, is not only grateful to see the sun but happy to spread sunshine into the lives of PGA National guests.
“I’m here to accommodate any needs,” she insists. “There’s nothing I can’t do. I handle everything from making dinner reservations to finding tickets for events.”
“I had a young man whose golf bag ripped. He was so upset about it. I found someone in West Palm Beach, on my day off, and took care of it. He said he had never seen anything like that.
He told me, ‘I fly to different resorts to play golf all my life and have been to 5-star resorts but this place is the first to do this for me.’”
She has also arranged private dinners on yachts and reunited newlyweds by helicopter.
A single mom whose daughter, Cristina, is in New York studying to be a pharmacist, Mancino meets visiting New Yorkers every day. “They love it here,” she insists. “They have so much. There are five golf courses, a beautiful spa, and great ambience. It’s not just a great resort but a happy resort.”
A golfer herself, Mancino says some guests come, stay five nights, and play on a different golf course every day. Many of them cross paths with the effervescent concierge.
As she explains, “Being diagnosed with cancer changed my life. It’s in remission now, but I live for the moment. I don’t know if I’m going to be here next year, but I know I’m going to be happy today. I tell people to smile because it doesn’t cost them anything.”
Mancino keeps tabs on Manhattan by reading the New York Times, New York Post, and Wall Street Journal every day. “I read the New York papers — that’s just me,” she says. “I’ve been in Florida four-and-a-half years but still don’t read the local papers. I’m always going to be a New Yorker.”