I'll always remember the Court Street butcher who, a decade ago, described Carroll Gardens to me as the perfect safe neighborhood: "A Mafia foundation with a Yuppie overlay."
Over the years, people have tried to convince me that the respectable Yuppie onslaught had all but scrubbed away the Mob residue from the streets. But, even as I saw the social clubs disappear and the old Italian families sell their brownstones and move away, I never quite believed it. The devil was still in the details, and I was good at squinting.
My feelings about the nabe have been borne out by this whole crazy Lucali mess, in which the owner of the famous Henry Street pizzeria, Mark Iocono, got in a knife fight (a knife fight!—how old school!) with Benny Geritano, an ex-con with connections to the Gennovese crime family. On Smith Street, outside Joe's Superette (great prociutto balls!), opposite a public school, at 3 PM in the broad daylight. Blood was spilled, both went to the hospital, and both have been charged with attempted murder.
The coverage of this story has been crazy. The reason for the dispute keeps changing. Geritano was trying to collect a debt from Iocono. No, he was trying to shake down Iocono for a cut of the Lucali money. No, it was a love quarrel, with the two men fighting over the affections of neighborhood gal Annette Angeloni. And both men claim that they were acting in self-defense; the other guy struck first.
All three of the lead characters work in the neighborhood. Iocono at Lucali, of course, a place I've been to many times; which has already been reported as the place of employ of a Columbo Mob associate; and always has some old Italian guys sitting at a back table. Geritano works at Bagels on the Park, near Carroll Park. And Angeloni works at Marielena Card & Gift Shop on Court Street, a storefront that used to house the great old red sauce joint Helen's.
As my friend, born in the neighborhood, told me: "Every business around here less than 10 years old is connected in some way." Keeps things interesting, that's for sure.