15 Iconic Restaurants The Mafia Loved (And Occasionally Died At)
When you’re high up in the ranks of the local mob, you eat whenever and wherever you want. If anyone challenges you, they’re tempting fate. Some of the most influential mobsters in mafia history held court in restaurants that are now famously linked to seedy, behind-the-scenes crime — some of which were even the locations where the mobsters that made them famous met their end.
We flipped through the case files to see which restaurants were the most popular amongst the mob in cities across the country, and whether or not they still hold the ghosts of the bad men who ate there.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the crime families that ran the city streets of New York, Boston, Chicago, and more is that they operated their shady businesses blatantly within the public sphere. They may have had their regular tables, perfectly positioned to see all exits, or they might have used an upstairs room to do their dealings. But most mobsters weren’t afraid to have a favorite spot, and that brazenness is what makes them so freaking scary.
If there’s a local joint in your town that is notoriously populated by those who did (or still do) dirty deeds, let us know about it. There’s something intriguing about how the mafia operates. And TBH, the mob recognizes good food when they taste it.
1. Sparks Steakhouse — Midtown, New York City
On December 16th, 1985, Constantino Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino crime family, was headed into lunch at Sparks Steakhouse with his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti.
Just as they exited their vehicle, parked illegally in the “no loading zone,” Castellano and Bilotti were gunned down by four men in white trench coats. It was a planned coup by John Gotti and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, and made Gotti the boss of the Gambino family. He was eventually imprisoned in 1992, and later died while serving his sentence in 1998.
2. Green Mill Cocktail Lounge — Chicago
Al Capone used to frequent Chicago’s Green Mill Cocktail Lounge during Prohibition days.
It’s said that his cohort Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn was even part-owner of the joint. McGurn reportedly kept a table open for Capone — a centrally located table where there’s a clear view of both the front and back entrances. It was during the Prohibition days that underground tunnels were built underneath Green Mill for smugglers to run booze to and fro.
It’s because of McGurn and Capone’s involvement in the Green Mill that comedian and cabaret singer Joe E. Lewis was offed. He was hired by McGurn to exclusively perform at the Green Mill, and when Lewis considered a better offer from a rival club, McGurn “took him for a ride.” Lewis was later found in his dressing room with his throat cut.
3. Bomb Bomb Bar-B-Q Grill — South Philadelphia
Before it was the Bomb Bomb Bar-B-Q Grill, it was a tavern located in South Philadelphia that garnered a questionable reputation.
Back in the 1930s, the owners of the tavern reportedly refused to buy their booze from an “endorsed” distributor, according to Where Traveler. Because of this, the place was bombed. And when the owners still refused, it was bombed again. When the place was bought by Frank Barbato Sr. in 1951, he named the place “Bomb Bomb” after the two mob-related explosions at the site.
4. The Flamingo — Las Vegas
Before he was offed at the early age of 41, the renowned bicoastal mobster Bugsy Siegel wiggled his way into the construction of The Flamingo restaurant and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
He started out as just an investor, but by 1945, he was running the entire show — or at least he was trying to. Under his direction, the entire project was mostly financed by Eastern crime syndicate bosses. Bugsy initially quoted the project to only cost $1.2 million. But he ended up sinking $6 million of his investors’ money into the final product.
After The Flamingo opened in 1946, Bugsy barely had enough time to reap its rewards. He was gunned down on June 20th, 1947 in his Beverly Hills home. Just about three minutes later in Las Vegas, associates of Bugsy’s supposed friend and ally, Meyer Lansky, charged into The Flamingo and asserted their group as the ones in charge.
5. Umberto’s Clam House — Little Italy, New York City
On April 7th, 1972, Joey “Crazy Joe” Gallo of the Profaci crime family had just celebrated his 43rd birthday at the Copacabana with friends and family, including his new wife of three weeks, Sina Essary, and Sina’s 10-year-old daughter. They were wrapping up their day with a meal at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy when four gunmen entered the building.
The Profaci family had been absorbed by Joe Colombo, who was paralyzed after being shot in 1971.
Believing that Gallo was to blame after rumors of a supposed Gallo-led uprising hit the streets, Colombo hired the hit at Umberto’s, and Gallo was successfully taken down.
His death spurred a war between the Gallo and Colombo families, resulting in the deaths of ten other mobsters. The war was so notorious that Bob Dylan even wrote a song about Gallo, called “Joey.”
6. Neapolitan Noodle Restaurant — Upper East Side, New York City
Two of these deaths occurred on on August 11th, 1972 at the Neapolitan Noodle Restaurant on the Upper East Side.
Four members of the Colombo crime family had just vacated four seats at the bar. Sheldon Epstein and Max Tekelch, along with their spouses and two friends, shortly claimed them. Thinking that Epstein and Tekelch’s group was that of the Colombo mobsters, a mysterious hitman opened fire, killing Epstein and Tekelch and wounding the others.
Those shots were supposed to be for the Colombos. However, innocent bystanders were taken down instead in a case of mistaken identity — and this remains one of the only times in mob history that innocents were taken down in a hit gone bad.
7. Dante & Luigi’s — South Philadelphia
This Italian seafood spot, also located in South Philadelphia, was a favorite haunt of Nicodemo S. Scarfo in the 1980s. Scarfo was the son of Philly mob boss Nicodemo D. “Little Nicky” Scarfo, who began serving time for murder in 1987 while still running his crime family from prison, using Scarfo Jr. as his proxy, Where Traveler reports.
On Halloween night 1989, Scarfo Jr. was enjoying his favorite Dante & Luigi’s meal of spaghetti and clams when a man in a Halloween mask approached him, armed with a gun concealed in a trick-or-treat bag. The man shot Scarfo six times, but he somehow survived the attack.
8. Mosca’s — New Orleans
Before opening Mosca’s in the late ’40s, Carlos Marcello of the Marcello crime family operated out of a barn he had converted into a small bar and tavern.
It sat on Marcello’s 6,400 acres of swamp where he reportedly stashed bodies. To treat his guests and fellow crime family members right, Marcello hired a Chicago Heights ex-con named Provino Mosca, who was reportedly the personal chef to Al Capone, to work at the restaurant. When Marcello picked up and moved his operations elsewhere, he brought Mosca with him and named his new headquarters after the renown chef. Mosca’s is still owned and operated by the Marcello family.
9. Rao’s Restaurant — East Harlem, New York City
Rao’s Restaurant got rowdy on December 29th, 2003 after two mobsters came head to head over an impromptu performance.
A young Broadway star had been asked to sing “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” and she did, to the dismay of Albert Circelli, a member of the Luchese crime family. Circelli reportedly shouted for her to get off the stage, among other things. However, Louis Barone, also of the Luchese crime family, wasn’t about to let Circelli rain on the singer’s parade, so to speak.
When Barone asked Circelli to pipe down, Circelli didn’t. That’s when Barone took out a revolver and shot Circelli dead. Barone later admitted to the shooting and faced second-degree murder charges.
10. Campisi’s Egyptian Lounge — Dallas
Joe Campisi, a supposed member of the Civello crime family in Dallas, Texas, opened the Egyptian Lounge in the 1940s.
Not only was he allegedly connected to local organized crime (although he denied it), he was also a good friend to Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald (the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy) on November 22nd, 1963. In fact, Ruby reportedly visited Campisi at the Egyptian Lounge the night before he took Oswald down. According to the L.A. Times, Campisi told the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he didn’t recall much about the visit, only that Ruby did tell him that he killed Oswald to spare the Kennedy family the pain of a trial.
11. Triple O’s Lounge — South Boston
James “Whitey” Bulger, perhaps the most infamous Irish mob boss in Boston, used to haunt Triple O’s Lounge in Southie.
In the 1970s, Bulger used the upstairs room of Triple O’s to plot his multitude of murders and extortion schemes. Bulger’s protégé Kevin Weeks also worked as a bouncer at O’s while learning from the master. Before Bulger moved into Triple O’s, the restaurant was called the Transit Café, and was the headquarters of a crew of loansharks.
Now, Triple O’s is called The Maiden and its appearance doesn’t quite match its history. The Boston Globe describes it as, “like a manic pixie dream girl — pretty, playful, and adventurous, but lacking a great deal of depth.” Bulger wouldn’t have been caught dead in a place like that.
12. Last Chance — Kansas City, Missouri
Last Chance sat on the state line of Kansas and Missouri, as many pubs and restaurants named “Last Chance” do.
These places were much loved by local mafia members because if the police from one state raided the place, one could simply move to the other side of the restaurant and be in a different county, and therefore the cops couldn’t do anything. Kansas City mob boss Charles Binaggio often operated out of Last Chance locales, and on April 5th, 1950, he told his driver to take him to Last Chance in Kansas City so he could meet his crony, Charles Gargotta.
The two Charleses never made it out of Last Chance, which has since been closed. They were both found shot dead at the Kansas City First District Democratic Club.
13. Don Peppe — Queens, New York City
Don Peppe was the official headquarters of Ciro Perrone of the Genovese crime family.
During one of the times Perrone held court there, a waiter reportedly spilled a drink on his wife. Perrone was allegedly so upset that he hired his crew to lay in wait with lead pipes and baseball bats for the staff to leave their shifts for the night. Because it was such a hot spot for Perrone, Don Peppe’s was wiretapped several times in an effort to get dirt on the mob boss.
And in 2009, Anthony “Fat Tony” Rabito of the Bonanno crime family was banned from Don Peppe as part of his parole due to the fact that it was a popular hangout for the local mafia.
14. The Monte Carlo — Springfield, Massachusetts
The family-owned Monte Carlo in Springfield, Mass, is popular for both its food and shady history.
Owned by the Pugliano family, who have strong ties to the local mafia, the Monte Carlo is now being run by the third generation of Puglianos. Louis “Louie Pugs” Pugliano was jailed for 15 years following the 1989 murder of William Grasso, an underboss and giant within the Patriarca crime family in Connecticut. Pugliano wasn’t the one who fired the fatal shot — however, he was behind the plan. He was released from prison in 2006, and is now well into his 80s.
15. Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant — Brooklyn, New York City
In July 1979, Carmillo “Carmine” Galante, often called “Lilo,” which is Italian slang for “cigar,” was gunned down on the patio of Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant in Bushwick.
He was already the head of the Bonanno crime family with murders under his belt, and a successful heroin ring. On that day, Galante was in the midst of planning to become capo di tutt’i capi — “the boss of all bosses” — which put a target on his back (more specifically, on his eye). Four gunmen armed with automatic weapons stormed the restaurant and shot Galante in the eye, with his cigar still hanging out of his mouth. Strangely, his two bodyguards, Baldassare Amato and Cesare Bonventre, made it out of the attack without a scratch.
We have to go clear our internet history before the government taps into our server. But while we’re doing so, we’re absolutely going to Postmates some Italian. You in?