The mob hit that rocked New York

 When two innocent men were killed by mobsters in 1972 at a Manhattan eatery, the Mafia took a hit too.

"Yeah, I left it noisy. That way it scares any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders away."

"The Godfather"was still playing in New York theaters five months after its release and audiences were still greeting that line with nervous laughter when, on Friday, Aug. 11, 1972, a hit man from Las Vegas walked into the Neopolitan Noodle, an Italian restaurant on Manhattan's East 79th Street, at the height of the dinner hour rush.

Mistaking four businessmen at the crowded bar for his actual targets, Colombo family acting boss "Little Allie" Persico and three mob lieutenants, the hit man opened fire with two long-barreled pistols, killing two of the businessmen — kosher beef wholesalers from Westchester County and Long Island — and wounding their companions.

The men were old friends meeting to celebrate a daughter's wedding engagement. They arrived at the Noodle as the Persico party was being seated for dinner. While the four wiseguys were out of harm's way at a table in the dining room, the hit man shot the four innocents who had taken their places at the bar. The businessmen were casualties of a Colombo family civil war that had ignited four months earlier in spectacular fashion when "Crazy Joe" Gallo was gunned down at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy.

The explosion of violence at the Neopolitan Noodle 40 years ago this week — one of the few times in the mob's long, bloody history when truly innocent bystanders were killed in a hit gone wrong — left in its wake an outraged citizenry and a city full of moviegoers who didn't find the reality of warring Mafia families as entertaining as it was on screen.

"The Godfather" celebrated the mob at the height of its wealth and murderous power. Gay Talese's nonfiction book about the Bonanno family, "Honor Thy Father," noted that the Mafia, with annual earnings that exceeded those of nine Top 10 Fortune 500 companies combined, was the biggest business in America at the time.

But if the movie made mobsters look like pious family men with fedoras and .45s, the Neopolitan Noodle killings exposed the vicious reality. The day after the mayhem, New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin condemned "The Godfather," which until then had been almost universally praised, as "hard-core pornography." And an angry New York Mayor John Lindsay demanded that "the romanticization of the mob must be stopped and the gangsters run out of town."

It took 20 years to accomplish the latter — mob godfather John Gotti's conviction and life sentence in 1992 more or less marked the end of the era when the New York Mafia reigned as an all-powerful and seemingly invincible force in New York's economic, political and cultural life.

As for Lindsay's hope that the public's romantic fascination with an enormous and highly organized outlaw gang of thieves would diminish, the mob's grip on the public imagination is arguably stronger today than it was 40 years ago when "The Godfather" was released.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film's opening, Paramount Pictures held special screenings of the original, with prints restored by the film's director, Francis Ford Coppola, in theaters across the country in March. And the movie, along with"The Godfather: Part II" and "The Godfather: Part III," was the centerpiece of AMC's widely promoted "Mob Week," a recent festival featuring 19 of Hollywood's best-known mob-themed gangster films, each introduced by cable star Anthony Bourdain.

The shooting at the Neopolitan Noodle, by contrast, is hardly embedded in the public mind. The 40th anniversary on Saturday of the dimly remembered killings will pass with little fanfare or commemoration. And the names of the real-life innocent bystanders felled by a mob gunman — Sheldon Epstein, 40, of New Rochelle and Max Tekelch, 48, of Woodmere — will probably remain as they have been all these years, largely forgotten.


The murder of Chuckie E

On Feburary 13, 1985, Chuckie English, (Born 1915 as Charles Inglesia) a onetime Capo under Sam Giancana was gunned down as he walked to his car in the parking lot of Horvath's restaurant, 1850 N. Harlem Ave., Elmwood Park.

Under Giancana, English was the Outfits boss of jukeboxes, gambling, counterfeit music recordings, coin-operated vending machines, gambling and juice loans on the West Side in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. He had once owned Lormar Distributing Company, which sold phonograph records and tape decks but was largely a front for the collection of juice loans from gamblers. When, in 1950, English was called before the U.S. Senate Rackets Investigating Committee concerning the jukebox industry, then heavily influenced by the mob, he repeatedly took the 5th Amendment. Three years after Giancana's death, English was reported to be semi-retired, spending winters in the Hallandale, Fla., area, golfing and deep- sea fishing. During the summer and fall he ran small card games in Elmwood Park. Otherwise, he lived quietly in a 10-room, two-story, Mediterranean-style home, with a swimming pool at 1131 N. Lathrop Avenue in River Forest.  When English bought the home in the 1960s, a real estate agent remembered he put down $5,000 as earnest money, and said: "There is a lot more where that came from."

 He then peeled off more bills from several other large wads of money, the real estate agent recalled. The rumors about why the 70-year-old English was murder on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day were rampant. Some said it was because he was trying to expand his gambling rackets, which is doubtful. Others claimed that a group of young Turks within the organization had gotten permission to take him out and take over his operations. Perhaps Ferriola himself ordered the murder or, as others speculated, the imprisoned Joey Lombardo because English was too quick to turn his street tax over to Ferriola who was obviously pushing his way to the top of the organization. But Ferriola’s dislike of English was legendary. Chicago police noted that English had fallen out with the acting boss Joe Ferriola when they followed him to Bruno’s, a gasoline station frequented by the Outfit which was across the street from the Elmwood Park restaurant where English was gunned down.

Detectives who were tailing Ferriola recalled "There apparently was a very cold relationship between English and Joe Ferriola, who likes to take over everything. English was there. So were other regulars, among them Dominic Cortina, Don Angelini and George Colucci. Ferriola shows up and here's what he did: He walked right past English. Didn't look at him at all. Goes right into the gas station like English wasn't there. That meant a lot to me. It showed who was strong and who wasn't. English stood around a while alone. Then he walked away, got in his Cadillac and left. The boys weren't talking to him."

English arrived at Horwath’s restaurant in suburban Elmwood Illinois, at about 3:00 AM.  Horwath's was firebombed bombed on May 4 and August 8, 1982, for reasons that never known. (It was closed and demolished in 2004 and is now a Staples Supply store)

That afternoon at 3:30 PM, the restaurant’s owner, Charles Roumeliotis, served a roast pig for regular customers and had invited English to drop by to eat. Sharing the table with him were 13 other guests including two Cook County judges, Louis J. Hyde and Benjamin DiGiacomo as well as the village trustees Donald Storino and Louis DiMenna. Sitting with them was labor thug John Lardino. It was his birthday.  English was a former client of DiGiacomo’s when he DiGiacomo was a lawyer in private practice. At about 6:00 PM, English stood, patted his stomach, hitched up his belt, waved goodbye and walked toward his white Cadillac De Ville coupe. English left at about the same time as two other men, one of whom paid English's check, although they weren’t sitting at the table with him. One of the men, described as elderly and slumped, walked out with English but went to another car. As he reached for the car door, which was parked less than fifty feet from the restaurant, two men wearing ski masks pumped five shots into his body, one hitting him between his eyes, the forehead, nose, left eyebrow and right cheek, and once in the back, below the right shoulder.  Two men, the killers, were in the parking lot waiting for him. Police impounded a car that witnesses said the killers were leaning on before the shooting.   The killers left on foot and no shell casings were found on the scene, although several shots reportedly were fired, leading police to theorize that the murder weapon was a revolver, which does not eject casings. The government suspected that the gun or the silencer used in the killing was provided by Hans Bachoefer of Elk Grove Village who had a long history of dealing weapons.

Emile Puzyretsky

In May of 1991, while eating breakfast at the National restaurant in Brighton Beach, Russian gangster Emile Puzyretsky was shot nine times in the face and chest.  None of the 15 witnesses in the restaurant remember seeing anything, including seeing gangster Monya Elson crawl around on the floor for several minutes collecting the shell casings.

Capone’s Soup kitchen

Capone’s Soup kitchen: Frantic to clean up his image as the best known gangster in the world, at the onset of the great depression, Al Capone opened a free soup kitchen at 935 S. State Street in Chicago. (The site now houses a parking lot) The outdoor sign on the place read “Free Soup, Coffee and Doughnuts for the Unemployed."



This excellent and nutritious soup is a godsend for using the stale bread that must never again be thrown away. It is composed of bread crumbs and grated bread, eggs, grated cheese, nutmeg (in very small quantity) and salt, all mixed together and put in broth previously prepared, which must be warm at the moment of the immersion, but not at the boiling point. Then place it on a low fire and stir gently. Any vegetable left over may be added.

Sam DeStefano’s juice operation

When a Chicago restaurant owner named Adler fell behind in his payments to Mad Sam DeStefano’s juice operation, Destefano (Above) kidnapped him off the streets, dragged him to his basement and stabbed him with his ice picks, killing him and then dumping his body in a sewer drain a few blocks from his house.  Police found the body was that in the spring, the sanitation department was trying to unblock the sewer, which had backed up and yanked out Adler’s body, which was perfectly preserved in the ice.

Taste of Italy turkey burger

Taste of Italy turkey burger

Total time: About 1 hour
Servings: 6
Note: From George Levinthal of Goleta, Calif. Prepared tomato-basil pasta sauce is generally available at most markets.
Turkey burgers
2 pounds ground turkey, a combination of white and dark meat
1/4 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 egg
1/3 cup tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Recipe: Gnudi (ricotta dumplings) with broccoli rabe pesto


 •Broccoli rabe pesto
 •1 cup blanched broccoli rabe leaves
 •3-4 broccoli rabe florets per serving
 •1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
 •1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon roasted garlic puree
 •1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 •A pinch pepperoncino
 •Finishing salt to taste
 •1 cup Italian ricotta (sheeps milk)
 •1 cup Salvatore Brooklyn ricotta (cows milk)
 •2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pecorino
 •Pinch salt
 •Pinch black pepper
 •Pinch nutmeg
 •Semolina flour, enough to fill a sealtight plastic container
 •Garlic chips
 •Garlic cloves
 •Cold milk
 •Canola oil for frying

For the broccoli rabe pesto, remove broccoli rabe leaves from their branches, reserving the florets. Blanch the leaves in boiling water, quickly, immediately placing them into a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking process. Blanch the florets, same method, and reserve separately. By blanching, you will retain their beautiful, natural green color in your final product. Dry the leaves once they are cooled. Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Shake the pan to ensure even browning. When they are fragrant and browned, remove from heat and cool. Keep a close eye as they burn easily.
Roast the garlic by heating an oven to 300 degrees F. Place unsalted butter on a double thickness of foil and smash it to make a base for the garlic. Top with garlic heads and sprinkle with kosher salt. Fold over the sides of the foil to make a package and roast for 1 ½ hours, or until the garlic is soft. While it is still warm, scrape the softened garlic through a tamis or food mill, leaving behind the skins. Add the pine nuts to a food processor (you can also use a mortar and pestle). Pulse it to make a thick paste. Add in the garlic and continue to pulse. Add some of the rabe leaves, and pulse, adding in extra virgin olive oil in a light stream. Add more of the leaves, continuing to pulse with oil, and more of the leaves, until you have added them all and you have a thick, creamy pesto. Finish with the pepperoncino and salt to taste. Reserve.

To make the gnudi, combine all ingredients except the semolina flour in a Kitchenaid mixer. Blend until smooth. Scrape this mixture into a pastry bag. Pour the semolina flour in a thick layer into the plastic container. Pipe each gnudi dumpling into the flour, making even rows to best utilize space. Each should be about the general size of your thumb, but round, about 1 ½ tablespoons each. Once you have all the rows completed, cover the layer with more semolina flour. Repeat until the entire container is filled with layers of gnudi, tucked into the flour. Let sit for 2 days to allow a shell to form around the cheese and hold its shape. When ready, remove each dumpling from the flour. Very, very gently, toss the dumpling between your two hands to shake the flour from it. Place into a bowl, reserve until cooking. Fill a pot of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. When the water has reached the correct rolling boil, add the gnudi and cook. They are ready more quickly than ravioli — as soon as they bob to the surface, they are done and remove.

For the garlic chips, slice the garlic chips as thinly as possible on a mandoline. Place the slices in a small saucepan and cover with cold milk. Bring the milk to a boil, then drain the slices in a strainer, discarding milk, then rinse them under cold water. Return the slices to a pan and repeat the process three times, using fresh milk each time. Pat them dry on paper towels. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan to 300 degrees F. Add the garlic slices to the hot oil and fry for 12-15 minutes, or until the bubbles around the chips have subsided and they are a light golden brown. Drain the chips on paper towels. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

To finish: Warm the broccoli rabe florets gently in a small saucepan extra virgin olive oil, season with pepperoncino and salt. Then warm the pesto gently. Add the gnudi, toss to coat with the pesto. Serve five gnudi per person. Plate with florets mixed in. Finish with garlic chips and grated cheese.

Sweet Italian Sausage

The fennel-spiked sausage that turns up in such favorite Italian-American preparations as pizza, meatball sandwiches, custardy casseroles, and savory pies has so captured the heart of American cooking that it can be found in supermarkets and deli cases from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Northwest and everywhere in between. Not only is it one of the tastiest and most popular sausages, but it is also one of the easiest to make at home because it doesn't require a casing. In fact, most recipes call for taking it out of its casing. If you want to serve the sausage as links, stuff it into hog casing. The recipe yields a larger amount than the other recipes in the book because this sausage is so versatile that I like to have some on hand in the freezer.
Makes 2 pounds
1 3/4 pounds ground pork
1/4 pound salt pork, fat part only, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or scant 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme or scant 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste, if needed

Place all the ingredients except the salt in a large bowl, and knead with your hands until thoroughly blended. Cook and taste a small sample, then add the salt if needed. Leave in bulk and shape as directed in individual recipes or stuff into hog casing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to blend. Saute or grill, or cook as directed in individual recipes. (The uncooked sausage will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 week.)

A Stickup on Arthur Avenue. Where? On Arthur Avenue?

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is known for its Italian restaurants, its cappuccino cafes and its old-school Italian-American population. It is also known as one of the safer streets in the borough, a reputation that made a bold jewelry store robbery there on Wednesday all the more surprising.

Just before 2 p.m., the police said, two robbers entered Spinelli & Son Jewelers, at 2310 Arthur Avenue, near Crescent Avenue. One of them waved a pistol and told Anthony Spinelli to open the safe. Mr. Spinelli apparently kept his licensed pistol in the safe, and wound up chasing the robbers out of the store as they were joined by a third waiting outside, according to the police.

Mr. Spinelli shot the man outside in the leg, the police said. As of last night, that man was in stable condition at a nearby hospital. Because the unnamed man was being treated, he had not yet been charged. The two other robbers escaped in a car; it is unclear whether they got away with any merchandise.

Mr. Spinelli was not charged.

Some local residents who saw the robbery muttered that the very fact that it had happened at all was a sign of a softening of a neighborhood once considered untouchable, perhaps because of its mob reputation. “In the old days, this never would have happened — on Arthur Avenue, are you kidding me?” Al Monetti, 62, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood, said. “In the old days, Spinelli wouldn’t have needed no gun. The whole neighborhood would have tackled them. It wasn’t a mob thing, it was a family thing.”

He said that it had been many years since this type of robbery had happened on the avenue. “Back then, a guy stole from the grocery store and before he got three stores away a bunch of guys tackled him,” he said.

He stared at the Spinelli sign — “18K Gold From Italy” — and said, “We’ve never been hit since then.”

Joe Binder, who is 100 but still works every day tending a nearby parking lot for Mario’s restaurant, said the neighborhood “stood up for itself more in the old days.”

“Today, everyone is slacking and minding their own business,” he said. “Years ago, the street was well protected. You had guys playing cards in social clubs all night, and if they saw anyone they didn’t recognize, they’d ask him, ‘What are you doing here?’ ”

Joe Migliucci, who owns Mario’s restaurant, now in its 92nd year, said, “I’ve never heard of anything like this happening here.”

“Criminals always felt like they won’t get away with anything here because everyone watches out for one another,” he said.

As far as mob activity, Mr. Migliucci said that he only knew what his father, Mario, told him about their restaurant missing out on being featured in the film “The Godfather.”

After Mario’s was mentioned in the book “The Godfather,” producers of the movie approached Mario Migliucci about filming a restaurant scene in his place. He declined.

“When they told my father it was going to be a shooting scene, he said no,” Joe Migliucci recounted. “He didn’t want that stigma.”

Sal Catania, who co-owns the pizza place across the street from the jewelry store, said, “This neighborhood was always safe — in the 1977 blackout, we were the only section that wasn’t looted. Fordham Road was destroyed, but not here.”

Spaghettini with Sweet Italian Sausage and Spinach

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 pound sweet Italian pork or turkey sausage (link variety), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 large garlic cloves, peeled, chopped

1 medium onion, peeled, chopped

2 cans (14 ounces each) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup water

8 to 12 ounces spaghettini or angel hair pasta (whole wheat or regular)

1 bag (10 ounces) fresh spinach, tough stems removed, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or light cream or heavy whipping cream

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage slices and cook 5 minutes, stirring, until they brown.

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the onion and cook 3 minutes or until it is lightly browned.

Add the chicken broth and water; cover and bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir the spinach into the pasta, cover and cook 3-5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the spinach is wilted. Stir in the cream and cook 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened and it coats the pasta.

Season with crushed red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Divide into individual bowls and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.