Veal Cutlets for Wiseguys
In 1972, the mobster Joey Gallo was killed as he fled gunmen who found him in Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy.
While the gun and the knife — as the Mafia’s tools are called during the secret society’s initiation rites — have been center stage, there is a sense that the knife and the fork have been fighting for equal billing.And some of the most memorable moments in film that for some have come to represent organized crime are similarly gastrocentric. There are the phrases “Leave the gun; take the cannoli” and “Try the veal, it’s the best in the city” in “The Godfather” movie. And there is Paul Sorvino, playing a mob capo in “Goodfellas,” wielding a razor blade to slice garlic for his sauce.
To those who follow the mob, the close connection between this ethnic underworld and the culinary arts practiced by Italian-Americans is not news. Indeed, momentous events in mob history have happened in and around restaurants: Carmine Galante, a cigar still in his mouth, was shot dead on the patio at Joe & Mary, a restaurant in Brooklyn; Joey Gallo was killed in a fusillade in Umberto’s Clam House as he bolted for the door, only to die on a Little Italy street; and Paul Castellano was gunned down at rush hour amid Christmas shoppers outside Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan.
In 1979, the mobster Carmine Galante, a cigar in his mouth, was killed on the patio of Joe & Mary restaurant in Brooklyn.
Food always came into play. References to food, meals, cooking and the restaurant and catering businesses, along with some choice gastronomic metaphors, have kept coming like so many courses on a tasting menu.
The prosecutor, Taryn A. Merkl, asked about Mr. Massino’s corruption of a prison guard in the late 1980s when he was being held in a federal jail in Manhattan.
“What did you bribe the prison guard to do?” Ms. Merkl, an assistant United States attorney, asked.
“He was bringing in food for us, cold cuts, shrimp, scungilli,” he replied.
More than a decade later, food was again the focus during a conversation he secretly recorded in a different federal jail with Mr. Basciano, the subordinate against whom he was testifying. “I’m belching, I’ve got a lot of heartburn, a lot of agita,” Mr. Massino complained to Mr. Basciano. “I’ll tell you one thing, that sausage wasn’t bad, bo.”