« The problem with corkage fees | Main | Meridian 54 and Brasserie 10 South »

April 15, 2009

Dining with the mob

Urban legend had it when I first moved to Baltimore that Little Italy was so safe because the Mafia wouldn't let any petty criminals hurt the restaurant business there. I figured this was a rumor started by the restaurants themselves because it made the neighborhood more interesting. It's not something I've heard about or thought about in years, though. Until our Shallow Thought Guru John Lindner's guest post today. EL

My former hometown, Milwaukee, has (or had) Mafia restaurants. (Piano Rob, if you’re listening, am I right or am I right?)

They didn’t advertise the connection, but people knew. Some restaurants bore the family name of alleged mob bosses, though I don’t know if said restaurants were mob owned and operated. In fact, the places in question may have simply been hangouts.

One common distinctive: they were all good. In one of these joints, you could not go wrong.

Another key attraction was celebrity mobster sightings.

I’ve never heard of such restaurants in Baltimore. Is it omerta? Or do we not have them?

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:30 PM | | Comments (12)


I know there is one in Detroit. The owner was so happy when they started eating there.

Excellent food, too.

Those who know keep their pie holes shut.

I had heard that Baltimore was a place where "retired" mob guys went to live out their days in peace. And they brought their favorite chefs with them.
Which doesn't make sense, since supposedly you can never leave the Family.

Despite the Mobtown moniker, I don't think Baltimore has ever really had a "mafia," per se.

Bookies and guys who fence stolen goods have always been here. And people who head-up certain labor organizations with ties to the ports (and their muscular companions) have also always been here. And I've heard the occasional "connected" guy will come through town and dine at a Little Italy restaurant.

As I understand it, the stories about the safety of Little Italy started when, during the riots, property and business owners patrolled rooftops with shotguns to keep rioters out of the neighborhood.

Anyway, that's as I understand it, having spent nearly a decade living in Little Italy.

We have a "mob restaurant" here, Gaetano's. It was originally owned by the Smaldone family, but now it is one of several restaurants owned by Denver's mayor. His name is Hickenlooper, so I don't think he's connected.

It has great food...I especially like their meatballs subs. But the best thing is their marketing slogan:

"Italian Food To Die For"

Bucky, now you have me questioning Gaetano's meatball sub. Is it of YOUR variety or the normal kind? ;)

Point to Bucky for the meatball sub reference. I'm a bit embarrassed that I missed it until mmmcorn pointed it out.

Having grown up in a NJ town where everyone was (or, at least claimed to be) connected, I've never gotten the same feel here.

mmmcorn - I was joking. They have a meatball sub, but when I go there for lunch I always eat their Italian sausage sandwich. I'm sure their meatball sub is good and, also, traditional.

Not Salvatore Hickenlooper by any chance? He's connected up the wazoo. Sal "Funny-Tastin' Meatballs" Hickenlooper? Oh, the stories I've heard tell.


Is the cook named Lovett? And is there a barber shop upstairs? I'd say "Try the Priest" but I know a good Catholic boy like Salvatore would never do anything like that to one of the Church's own.

Post a comment

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

Top Ten Tuesdays
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Restaurant news and reviews Recently reviewed
Browse photos and information of restaurants recently reviewed by The Baltimore Sun

Sign up for FREE text alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for dining text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Food & Drink newsletter
Need ideas for dinner tonight? A recommendation for the perfect red wine?'s Food & Drink newsletter is there to help.
See a sample | Sign up

Stay connected