From the outside, Manny Anzalota’s yellow cab looks just like all the others cruising around New York City, but for Anzalota, the experience has been anything but ordinary. Each ride is a surprise adventure. Since he began driving a taxi in 2007, his customers have run the gamut from mediterranean royalty to billionaires and Hollywood celebrities.
Anzalota’s numerous encounters with the rich and famous and his signature black fedora have earned him a reputation as the unofficial cabbie to the stars. Known as “Mr. Ferrarii,” a nickname given to him by actor Tom Hanks—whom he drove in 2013 and is still in touch with—Anzalota has turned himself into a bit of a social media personality, posting selfies and videos with the likes of Anderson Cooper, Drew Barrymore, Frances Turner and even Prince Pavlos of Greece and his wife, Princess Marie-Chantal. Entrepreneur and investor Michael Loeb, whom Anzalota has coincidentally driven twice, invited him to his famous Halloween extravaganza at his Upper East Side residence and also gave him a private tour of his home. His trip with British hedge fund billionaire Michael Platt recently went viral.
The 56-year-old driver chalks up his unique experiences to his welcoming personality and a lot of luck. “I always turn around to greet people and I look at them in the eyes,” he says. From there, the conversation flows and Anzalota gets to know his customers, even the ones he doesn’t recognize. He begins by introducing himself as a cabbie to the stars and then asks his passengers if he has anyone famous in his cab. Many times, they are modest and try to convince Anzalota that they are probably the least famous person he’s driven, or won’t even tell him who they are, but he isn’t fooled. “They all say the same thing,” says Anzalota, though he’s no snob—he chats up everyone, not just the stars.
A Brooklyn native, he is the fifth of six siblings born to a Puerto Rican mother and an Italian father. Growing up in Bushwick, the family struggled and Anzalota worked odd jobs to help supplement the family income. In his final year of high school he dropped out to work in construction, though his dream was to become an actor. Twelve years ago, a friend suggested he drive a taxi because he was so personable and would meet a lot of great people. “To this day, he was right,” says Anzalota. He even made an appearance on the Today Show in 2016 after giving the show’s cohost Hoda Kotb a ride. But he garnered more media attention in December when the video of a jovial Michael Platt in the back of Anzalota’s cab surfaced on the internet. In the video Platt introduced himself as the highest-earning person in finance. Anzalota says Platt was joking and the video has since been taken down. Platt also gave Anzalota one of the largest tips he’s ever received. “When I saw how much he was worth, I said what a cheap guy!” Anzalota jokes. Forbes estimates Platt’s net worth to be $8 billion. Anzalota wouldn’t reveal exactly how much he was tipped, but for comparison, he posted a photo of a $75 tip he received on an $18 fare from an undisclosed rider in July 2019. Anzalota says some of his wealthiest customers are also some of the nicest. t
Still, driving a cab is no easy living. With a weekly lease fee of $900 for the taxi, plus gas and competition with on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft, Anzalota isn’t always able to make ends meet. “It’s not like I make a lot of money driving people around,” he says. “It depends on the day.” One week he might earn $1,500 from rides; another week might net him $700, because of industry decline. Since 2011, the number of trips completed by yellow taxis in Manhattan has fallen by roughly half, while companies like Uber, Lyft and Via have increased their trips by nearly 60% since 2017.
For Anzalota, however, it’s no surprise that some billionaires and celebrities are still taking cabs rather than private car services, and he doesn’t think yellow cabs will ever disappear. “It’s a part of New York City, you know,” he says. “People respect the yellow cab.” He’s currently employed by United Taxi Management and hasn’t considered working for Uber or Lyft, though he’s keeping an open mind. He and his manager have even discussed him driving the first Tesla taxi in New York City, a plan that was approved by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission last November.
His dreams don’t stop there: “My next step would probably be to try to see if I could have my own company driving all the high end people and training my guys wearing fedoras,” he says. “If one day I get a great opportunity, I’d be probably more than happy to take it.” Plus he scrupulously keeps track of notable encounters with customers—both famous and not—and hopes to turn his more than 1,500 experiences with them into a book. In the meantime, Anzalota drives his passengers wherever they tell him to go, looking for good conversation and a selfie. “Queens, Brooklyn, uptown, downtown, it doesn’t matter,” he says. “Celebrities are everywhere.”