The Italian-American Mafia have always needed places to meet up to discuss business. A popular choice was a local restaurant or steakhouse as they could eat and drink while making their arrangements.
However, eating and drinking were not the only matters taking place in these restaurants. They were used to store weapons and as a venue to intimidate or even kill their victims. Some restaurants were even owned by members of the mafia and used for money laundering and as a cover for their illegal activities. These restaurants were also the venue for some of the most famous murders amongst mobster rivals.
Here are some of the New York restaurants that are well-known for their connections to the Italian-American Mafia and the events that took place there.
Located in Midtown, this restaurant was a favorite of the Gambino crime family. On December 15, 1985, an attack on the Cosa Nostra faction by rivals went down in mobster history. Thomas Bilotti was working as a bodyguard for Constantino Paul Castellano. After a trip to their lawyers, Bilotti drove Castellano to Sparks Steakhouse in a Lincoln Continental.
When the pair got out of the vehicle they were gunned down and killed by four men wearing Russian fur hats. These men were later named as Vinnie Artuso, John Carneglia, Eddie Lino and Salvatore ‘Fat Sally’ Scala. The plot was hatched by John Gotti and Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano.
The restaurants past connections to mobsters is still well-known and it is a popular tourist attraction for those who are interested in the history of the Mafia in America.
Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant
Once a heroin dealer, Carmillo ‘Carmine’ Galante became the head of the Bonanno crime family. His nickname was ‘Lilo’ which is the Italian for cigar because he was rarely seen without a cigar in his hand or mouth. Police suspected Galante of as many as 80 murders.
Galante was a mob target because it became known that he was trying to rid himself of rivals as he dreamed of becoming the ‘capo di tutt’i capi’ which is the ‘boss of all bosses’. There were many who did not want to see him in this position and he was stopped in his tracks at Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant.
Galante visited the restaurant on July 12, 1979, and was accompanied by two bodyguards. He was sitting in the restaurant’s patio area with two companions; Giuseppe Turano, the restaurant owner who was also Galante’s cousin and a Bonanno soldier, and Leonard Coppola, a Bonanno capo. When three-masked men burst into the restaurant and opened fire, Galante, Coppola and Turano were all killed. However, neither of the bodyguards was harmed.
Joe and Mary’s Italian restaurant no longer exists as the building now houses a Mexican restaurant called Taqueria La Asuncion.
Charles Rao opened this restaurant in East Harlem in 1896. It became a well-known venue for a gastronomic treat and reservations were difficult to obtain. However, it was more recently that the restaurant became notorious for its mobster connections.
On December 29, 2003, the restaurant was packed. The famous Broadway actress and singer Rena Strober was there as a guest of Sonny Grosso, a regular at the restaurant. Frank Pelligrini, the part-owner of the restaurant, and a barman called Nicky The Vest were also in attendance.
Pelligrini asked Strober to sing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade. Albert Circelli, a newly elevated Lucchese soldier slated her performance and was overheard by another Lucchese associate, Louis Barone. A row broke out between Circelli and Barone that resulted in Barone pulling a revolver and killing Barone with one shot to the back. One other person was injured when they were shot in the foot.
When charges against him were reduced, Barone pleaded guilty and accepted a prison term of 15 years. Rao’s restaurant is still going strong and getting a reservation is as difficult as it ever was before.
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