These guys went from the Big Apple’s fine dining institutions to the great eatery in the sky.
For more than 80 years, city mobsters have gathered at red sauce joints and steakhouses around town to do business — or simply hold court for their loyal subjects.
But sometimes they’ve met a fate far worse than downing a plate of bad clams.
Legendary restaurants like Sparks Steakhouse and Rao’s have been the sites of some of the city’s most famous mob murders.
These are some of the “greatest hits” of this grim genre, where victims were whacked in less time than it takes to uncork a chianti.
It was a sensational coup d’etat against the head of the Gambino crime family, the biggest and most powerful Cosa Nostra faction in the country.
Constantino Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti had just come from their lawyer’s office and the squat and powerfully built Bilotti pulled his Lincoln Continental into a “No Standing Zone,” directly in front of the restaurant, before he and his passenger found themselves trapped in a pincer attack.
Upon emerging from their vehicle, the pair were met by four men, wearing long white trench coats and black Russian-style fur hats, who unleashed a fusillade of gunfire. Castellano, 70, was hit half a dozen times; Bilotti, 45, took four bullets and collapsed on the sidewalk, next to the driver’s side door. Both were dead before cops arrived.
Upstart mobster John Gotti and his crony, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, had hatched the plot two weeks earlier. Gravano, who became a cooperating witness, named the four-member hit team as Vinnie Artuso, a Bronx-based heroin dealer; John Carneglia and Eddie Lino, a Gambino soldier and capo, respectively; and Salvatore “Fat Sally” Scala, Lino’s brother-in-law.
According to Gravano, Carneglia fired the shots that killed Castellano, while Lino and Scala blasted away at Bilotti. Artuso did not fire his weapon because it jammed, Gravano would claim.
Gotti went on to enjoy three straight court victories in a four-year span when he beat federal RICO and state charges of conspiracy, assault and robbery before his Brooklyn federal court conviction on April 2, 1992, on racketeering charges, including the Castellano hit.
“The TEFLON DON”
Gotti died of cancer in prison in 1998.
Sparks continues to serve noteworthy steaks, although the site has emerged as a macabre tourist spot for dedicated mob buffs.
CARMINE GALANTE’S body being removed from JOE & MARY’S RESAURANT
BROOKLYN , NEW YORK
armillo “Carmine” Galante was nicknamed “Lilo,” Italian slang for “cigar,” which was appropriate given his omnipresent stogie.
Suspected by the NYPD of more than 80 murders, Galante, 69, was a prodigious heroin peddler who rose to be head of the Bonanno crime family.
He became a mob target, sources say, because he was planning to knock off rivals in the hope he would be installed as capo di tutt’i capi — “boss of all bosses” — while refusing to share his dope profits with his cronies.
Galante had two Sicilian bodyguards with him — Baldassae Amato and Cesare Bonventre — when lunching with Leonard Coppola, a Bonanno capo, and restaurant owner/cousin Giuseppe Turano, a Bonanno soldier, in a patio area.
Three ski-masked men entered and opened fire with a shotgun and handguns, leaving Galante and his two companions dead, though Amato and Bonventre curiously emerged unscathed.
There was a grisly photograph of the death scene that spoke volumes about what had occurred — one showing Galante, with an eye shot out, lying crumpled on the ground, a cigar still stuck in his mouth.
Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria began his mob ascent soon after arriving in New York City from Sicily in 1902.
In August 1922, he escaped an assassination bid that spawned a nickname, “The Man Who Can Dodge Bullets,” after two slugs creased his straw hat. By the end of the 1920s, he had become “Joe The Boss,” head of the biggest Mafia borgota in the city.
A father of nine, his favorite restaurant was Nuovoa, renowned for its succulent seafood. Legend has it that after showing up in a steel-armored sedan, Masseria, 45, was joined by Charles “Lucky” Luciano for a session of cards, drinks and old-school dining.
Luciano excused himself to go to the bathroom — and at least two mob rivals began blasting away. As in the Galante case, a grisly photo — showing a slain Masseria lying on the ground, with a bloody ace of spades clenched in his right hand — is a frightening testament to what occurred.
The shooting ended a feud with rival mobster Salvatore Maranzano, who was himself rubbed out that August, an event that led to the creation of the five mob families of New York City.
The long-closed eatery is now the site of the Banner Smoked Fish Company.
UMBERTO’S CLAM HOUSE
LITTLE ITALY NEW YORK
Shortly after “CRAZY JOE GALLO” was Whacked inside …
Most people get wedding gifts when they marry and presents on their birthday. Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo, who had just turned 43 and had been married only three weeks, received assassins’ bullets.
He had been dining with his sister, Carmella Fiorello; his new wife, Sina Essary, and her 10-year-old daughter, Lisa, who had become Joey’s new stepdaughter; as well as his bodyguard, Peter “Pete The Greek” Diapoulas, and Pete’s companion, Edith Russo.
The group has just concluded a champagne-filled birthday at the Copacabana, with guests like comedian David Steinberg and actor Jerry Orbach.
Joey was making his way through a second helping of Umberto’s shrimp and scungilli salad while seated at one of two tables set aside for him and his entourage when four gunmen burst in and began firing.
The butcher block table where Gallo had been seated was overturned, offering a shield to his wife and daughter. Diapoulas, who was wounded, returned fire, but missed as the quartet fled.
A mortally wounded Gallo stumbled to the front door before collapsing on the street in a puddle of blood, but not before defiantly cursing the gunmen.
“This was the first time in history the Mafia had shot and killed someone in front of his sister, wife and child,” she noted, adding that she instructed her frightened daughter to “play dead” while the bullets were flying.
The colorful Gallo had charmed much of Manhattan’s glitterati with claims that he had developed a fondness for French existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus while imprisoned.
The word on the street, however, was that he had become a target after letting it be known than he’d had a more practical prison epiphany — he wanted to start a sixth mob family using black gangsters as crew members.
The old guard was not amused, so when Colombo loyalist Joseph Luparelli spotted Gallo dining, he limped off on his bum knee to a Greenwich Village restaurant and tipped his associates, sealing Gallo’s fate.
The site now houses Da Gennaro, another Italian restaurant.
This eponymous eatery, named for founder Charles Rao, opened its doors off Pleasant Avenue in 1896. It evolved into a social and gustatory phenomenon, a place where dinner reservations are about as hard to come by as a cheap one-bedroom with Central Park views.
On this night, the place was packed three deep while bartender Nicky The Vest was pouring drinks. Omnipresent part-owner Frank Pelligrini was queuing the jukebox for favored patron Rena Strober, 27, a Broadway actress and singer.
Strober was a guest of Sonny Grosso, a Rao’s regular and an ex-cop immortalized by his work on the “French Connection” case. Pelligrini urged her to tackle “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” a song made famous by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl.”
Strober belted out the tune and sat down to applause, unaware that a newly elevated Lucchese soldier, Albert Circelli, had rudely dogged her performance — at least until bullets began to fly.
Circelli threatened Barone, saying, “I’ll open up your hole. I’ll f–k you in the a–.”
Circelli threatened Barone, saying, “I’ll open up your hole. I’ll f–k you in the a–.”
Enraged, Barone insisted he had no choice but to pull out a revolver and fire once into Circelli’s back, simultaneously ending both his career as a mobster and music critic. Another man was wounded in his foot.
Barone pleaded to reduced charges and accepted a 15-year prison term.
Rao’s remains as difficult a place to land a dinner reservation as ever.
It was a case of mistaken identity, revenge for the sensational rubout of Joey Gallo at Umberto’s four months earlier, only this one led to two innocent meat wholesalers being gunned down in front of their horrified wives and friends.
Sheldon Epstein, 40, of New Rochelle, and Max Tekelch, 48, of Woodmere, LI, had taken up spots at the restaurant’s bar, along with their spouses and two pals.
Unfortunately, the seats the party had taken had just been vacated by four Colombo crime family gangsters — each of whom had been marked for retribution by Gallo loyalists.
Shortly after the new arrivals took over the vacated seats, a mysterious hitman purportedly hired from Las Vegas entered, thereby setting the stage for the bungled hit.
Described as “bulky” and middle-aged, he wore a shoulder-length black wig, slapped $10 on the bar and ordered a scotch and water. He spent five minutes coolly sipping his cocktail before he rose to his feet, pulled out twin .38-caliber revolvers and blasted away — at the wrong targets.
Three of the intended victims, who had taken seats in the back of the restaurant, were later identified by police as Alphonse “Allie Boy” Persico, brother of Carmine “Junior” Persico, then the imprisoned de facto leader of the Colombo crime family; Carmine’s son, Alphonse T. Persico (known as “Little Allie Boy” Persico); and Gennaro “Jerry Lang” Langella, Allie Boy’s bodyguard. A fourth intended target was later identified as Charles “Charlie The Moose” Panarella, a Colombo soldier.
The Aperol Spritz is Super Hot! No, not hot, as in temperature wise, but
hot as in popular. It’s the drink of the moment. A drink I’ve known of since my
first exploratory trip to Venice, to do research on Venetian Wine Bars (Bacaro) of
which I was planning on and did open in New York’s Greenwich Village.
It was at a Bacaro (Venetian Wine Bar) in Venice that I had my first Spritz.
Venice is where these refreshing Italian drinks were invented and it was
in Venice that I had my first some 20 years ago, a good 15 years before most
Americans ever heard of them. Same thing with me and the Negroni, which
I discovered and have been drinking since 1985, my first of many wonderful
trips to my ancestral Motherland, Italy.
Anyway, fast forward to 2105. I just came back from Capri & The Amalfi Coast
in Italy. I had a wonderful time; swimming in the waters surround Capri everyday
before going back to my hotel to take a shower and little nap before going out for the evening.
Going out at night? I’d go out to a wonderful meal each night, but before going
to my favorite restaurant I’d stop off at Bar Tiberius or Caffe da Alberto at the
Piazza Umberto for a little apertivo before dinner. Such fun sitting at a outdoor table
at Bar Tiberius as I did way back in 1988 and having a nice refreshing drink in the lively
Piazza Umberto before moving on to dinner. Back in 88 I had a daily ritual of getting up, having a lovely Italian breakfast of Cappuccino, Cornetto, fresh Blood Orange Juice, and Yoghurt before heading for one of Capri’s gorgeous beaches and a day of swimming and relaxing on the lovely Mediterranean Sea. What’s better than that?
I’d swim for a couple hours in the morning, then go to a nearby restaurant or caffe for a little lunch, then back to the beach to late afternoon, before hopping on the little local bus up to the Piazza Umberto, Capri’s most popular piazza of all.
I’d then meet up with some friends for a drink or two before heading back to my hotel
(La Toasca) for a little nap, and then back to Bar Tiberius for another operative before dinner, and after dinner it was on to the bar at the Palma Hotel for drinks and good times with friends.
Oh what a life?
That’s the story of; Me, Capri, and My Campari, Granita, or a nice refreshing
Happy to see Corner Bistro’s Burger can still make it to # 1 Best of New York list these days. I’ve been eating Cheeseburgers there since 1984. Yes 26 Years of Bistro Burgers. Back then, the Burger at the Corner Bistro was for Year-After-Year thee perennial favorite, # 1, Top, Best Burger in New York, rated by the Top and most Powerful food Authorities of the day, New York Magazine, The NY Times, Cue Magazine, The Post, The Village Voice, GQ, Bob Lape on 7’s Eyewitness News, The Daily News, so on and so forth. Nine out of ten people, newspapers, and news agency’s, The Bistro Burger was always “Tops,” # 1. It no longer is. And it was tops for some 30 years. Quite a run. Sadly the quality of the Burger has gone down a bit, and there are numerous chemistry better, tastier Burgers in town. Shake Shack get my Vote for the Top, New York’s best Burger, with Bills Bar and Burger and Peter Luger not far behind. But the Shake Shack Burger has all the proper elements that come together and make for perfect chemistry of, dear I say, “The Perfect Burger.” Well if not the perfect Burger, New York’s Best, or at least amongst the Best, everyone has their opinion. Some not as qualified as others. As I’ve been eating the East Coast’s Best Burgers since childhood, and being a former Chef Culinary Professional, I have greater qualifications than most.
The Shake Shack Burgers elements that make it so good, are: Top Quality Beef, Just the right size and thickness, not too thin nor too thick, which unfortunately many think makes a burger is better, the thicker it is. Not so. A 6 oz., 3/4″ Burger is Best and it has to be cooked on a Flat-Top Grill cooking in its own fat to qualify amongst the best. Cooking on a grated grill, just won’t do. You’ll often get terribly overcooked hard spots, losing all important beef fat for the burger to cook in. You’ll need a good hamburger bun, toasted preferred, not too fancy, and a major No-No is the use of an English Muffin. Though i Love them for breakfast, English Muffins are a terrible choice, pairing to a Burger. the Burger has to be properly cooked
And one of thee most important rules to a great Burger, it can’t cost more than $6.50, and about $4.50 is even better. The Shake Shake burger meets all these requirements, even exceeding them.
Back to the Bistro Burger. For nostalgias sake and Price to value ratio, combined with the great old New York Bar ambiance, The Bistro Burger always makes it on my Top 10 List. As the Post states, to be able to get a great burger for just $6.50 with Beers at $2.75 in one of New York’s few remaining Bohemian Bars, and in Greenwich Village? Acombination that just can’t be beat.
by Daniel Bellino Zwicke
A CLASSIC BISTRO BURGER
Recipe for The PERFECT BURGER in The BADASS COOKBOOK
Coffee and Cafes. Two things very near and dear to me. Million so others as well. In New York, we have the Best, “For getta bout it Seattle” !!! I remember 25 years ago and more when there were no Starbucks and just very few cafes in the hole city. More or less the only cafes were in Greenwich Village, Little Italy, and the East Village. There were hole neighborhoods, completely cafe-less and if you wanted to go to one you had to go to the Village or Little Italy, nothing on the hole Upper East Side.
Anyway, Coffee and Cafes are a huge thing these days and part of many a life.
Coffee and cafes, let me tell you about some of the best and my impressions. Hey, I’m a guy who has been frequenting cafes for years, each and every day, just about. I haven’t Jumped on the Band Wagon in the past 5 or ten years. I’ve been riding it for 30.
Number “One,” in New York, a good Cup of Joe is King, “Regular” not
Grande Caramel Latte and overpriced crap like that. Not the esoteric overpriced espresso, Cortado, Machiato, Blue Bottle, and Site Specific Coffee, and blends that try to break down and make too make of a good simple thing. You know what I mean. A “Cup of Joe,” is King. Used to be Five Cents at coffee shops all over the city. Well that’s going way back. Hey don’t get me wrong, I love Espresso, Espresso Machiatto, and the great Cortado they serve at Abraco. It’s just that I gotta tell you, a “Regular” is King and let’s hope it always will be.
Abraco is utterly awesome. Maybe the Best Single tasting coffee in town, is their Cortado. Man it’s tasty. Just out of this world. But I have some problems with Abraco, as I’m not someone to pay a Premium for what I call “Hit and Run Coffee”
What is “Hit and Run Coffee” you ask? Well, let me tell you. Hit and Run Coffee is a coffee that you get at places like Caffeteria, Abraco, Third Rail Coffee, and tiny little Coffee Bars that have little or no chairs and tables and maybe just a small counter space for standing. Listen, I’m not in the habit of paying $3.50, $4.50 or “More” for a cup of coffee, having to stand at a counter, drinking it in short time and leaving. Ending up $5.00 or more less in my pockets. Well you may think, “What’s $5.00?” Right? What’s Five Dollars? Imagine if you have 5 $5.00 coffees a week for one year. Do you know how much money that adds up to? Relax, I’ll do the Math for you. That’s $1,300 my friends. No small sum? Multiply that by 5 years and you’re talking $6,500, or by Ten Years and we’re talking $13,000. That’s a lot of Friggin Cash my friends. Hey I’m not saying you should not go out and have coffee. I do all the time. Heck, on my days off, I sometimes end up in cafes three times in one day. I spend about $1,508 a year on coffee, $7,500 in five years or about $15,000 in ten. That’s a lot. But I get a lot. Heck, I used to spend about $2,200 a year on coffee, $10, 000 or more in 5, or about $20,000 in ten years. But I have cut back. I’ve seen the light. I hardly ever spend $5.00 on a coffee any more. All I need is the $2.00 variety. A good honest “Cup of Joe,” a “Regular.” And I need to get my money’s worth. If I just wanted a good cup can easily make a great one in my house for just “15 Cents a Cup,” but I go and have one at a Café for 15 times that amount. Why? The extra $2.35 I pay for the coffee plus tip, is to be able to “Sit” down and relax in a nice pleasant atmosphere. I’m not gonna pay 27 times ($3.75 Average price coffee at Upscale Coffee Bar) to stand at a counter and not being able to sit down and relax. At home I can make a tasty cup of Coffee from the Highest Quality Coffee money can buy with the coffee I buy at “Porto Rico Coffee” on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, just a half block from my house. No, I pay all that extra money to sit in the pleasant environment of a nice coffee. Also to see other people, maybe a friend or the possibility of meeting someone new and interesting. I read, I write, I hang with friends, I relax. I can not do that at a overpriced “Coffee Bar” that doesn’t have any place to sit.
And speaking of Porto Rico Coffee, it mystifies me that people are so foolish as to pay $11.95 or more for a mass-produced commercial pound of Coffee from Starbucks instead of going to the “Best Coolest Place in Town” to be some of the World’s Finest Coffee at Porto Rico Coffee, people who have been doing this for more than 100 years, not 20. It just doesn’t make sense. By the way, the coffee I buy at Porto Rico is just $5.99 and $6.99 a pound, half the price of a pound of Starbucks Coffee.
Anyway. It’s all up to you. I’ll stick with my Regular “Cup of Joe” with a Espresso and Cappucino thrown in here and there, and as a special treat a Cortado from Abraco every now and then. And I’ll get to sit down and relax with my coffee each day, putting an extra $1,000 a year in my pocket, or Airfare and a few nice meals when I go on vaction. How bout you, “Hit and Run”and pay more, or Sit Down and Relax, Pay Less, Save, and put a Thousand Bucks a Year in your pockets, or $10,000 in ten ?