May 31, 2016
Kati Mancuso enters Kati’s Place, the Oak Street diner she opened Monday.
She shows none of the exhaustion that comes with owning a restaurant as she talks with diners and staff. Nor does she express any of the exhaustion or pain that comes from being a single mother of four, or the ongoing treatment of her stage 4 cancer.
It’s lunchtime, four hours after Kati’s opened and 10 until it closes. Meals are being prepared, tartar sauce is going into cups for fish fries, and customers are recommending where to pick up a credit card scanner. There’s enough inside to not be weighed down by what’s outside.
“I’m so positive about making sure everyone’s good,” Mancuso said. “They’ll like it, and I’m here to make sure of it.”
Kati’s Place serves a wide selection of sandwiches, burgers, salads and soups, along with all-day breakfast and daily specials. It’s family diner fare that doesn’t cut corners.
“It’s all homemade,” Mancuso said. “The food is phenomenal. I make fresh macaroni salad, soups. The roast beef is a real roast, not deli meat.”
Mancuso started working and managing restaurants as a teenager, starting with Scooter’s in Batavia and then in Le Roy, before opening Kati’s Place on Le Roy’s Main Street in 2011.
She had to close that restaurant after being hit by a drunk driver, focusing on raising her children — ages 15, 9, 3 and 10 months — as well as caring for whomever needed her help or home.
A friend Larry moved in two years ago rather than go into a nursing home. Mancuso was still on an intensive chemotherapy regimen when he asked her to sit with him for a serious conversation.
“He was carrying his Bible, he said he had made a deal with God ‘to give you 10 years (more) if He took 10 years off mine,’” Mancuso recalled.
He told her it was a done deal. Larry died a month later.
“I haven’t grieved yet. He knew I’d open back up,” she said. “I wish he could have seen it.”
Mancuso said longevity, or the unfavorable long-term prognosis for people with her rare form of melanoma, doesn’t weigh on her mind. She doesn’t bring it up to her kids, and takes nothing off the positive and attentive approach running a restaurant requires. Greeting customers, cooking, remodeling — she did it.
Coming back to Batavia — Mancuso commutes from Chili — was an easy decision. Her customers and her staff are here.
Matt, her chef, has been with Mancuso at all four restaurants. He’s like a brother. Other employees have been trained up from dishwasher.
The restaurant can use parking on both sides of Oak Street and in its own lot. Truckers have called ahead and picked up their meals, while regulars have arrived from all directions.
Jackie DuBoise of Caledonia, Kati’s mom, was among the diners Friday.
“She’s a fighter, she really is,” DuBoise said. “Nothing can hold her down. She goes for what she wants.”
Kati’s Place, 40 Oak St., Batavia is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant can be reached at (585) 250-4483.
By JIM KRENCIK, Batavia Daily News