You’ve heard the various exultations of the Mediterranean diet, the unexpectedly kinky health powers of red wine, the benefits of drinking a cup of olive oil a day (that’s a thing, right?). And chances are, there’s been a study to back each and every claim up. But sometimes, don’t you just want living proof?
Well, you got it. Meet Filomena Magavero, Bronx resident and Arthur Avenue mainstay who has lived to 94 years and counting with five gin martinis a week. It’s not (necessarily) the gin that keeps Magavero sprightly. It’s the fact that she consumes them in a social setting—a daily visit to Mario’s, a neighborhood Italian favorite—as part of a very social lifestyle. And yes, as an exception to a largely Mediterranean diet. (Not sure gin and vermouth are on that list…)
“A lot of it has to do with enjoying your years and making the most of them,” 91 year-old Dominick Dente told The New York Post. And Dente—who lists Z100 and an occasional glass of red wine in his health regimen—cheats on Italian cuisine with the occasional, and highly non-Mediterranean, hot dog.
Longevity might be largely genetic (and incidentally regional), but there’s definitely something to be said for reports that indicate the social and red-wine-drinking habits of Italian-Americans have yielded a population of comparatively active seniors who are tipping the scales of time at 90 and 100 years old.
This is fairly well-timed news. If you haven’t heard, a recent—and highly depressing—study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests loneliness can apparently contribute to heart disease. Meaning the social component of the Italian American way of life, in addition to a red wine, and of course gin martinis, could indeed have an influence on your health—and hope of getting to any nonagenarian birthdays. And you don’t necessarily have to be Italian to get there. Joseph Binder is Russian by birth, but was effectively “adopted” by the Italian community on Arthur Avenue, and he says straight up: “I’m kept young by the camaraderie of the Italians.”
Binder loves meatballs, drinks red wine every day, and caps it off with a chaser of Hennessy. Red meat, plus read wine, plus Cognac. Plus company. Binder is 106.