19 April 2011

Carroll Gardens, Home Sweet Mobbed-Up Home


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.

19 comments:

Ken Mac said...

juicy!

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thanks, Brooks. I was waiting for your response to all this!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

For the record, I am among those who think Lucali's pizza is fantastic and not overrated in the least. As for Bagels on the Park, they always screw up my order. And I love them for it.

Tinderbox said...

Ha! I see the Post story quotes one "Paul DeFontes" talking about what a saint Iacono is. I wonder if he's any relation to the Red Hook sandwich shop DeFontes family you profiled recently?

onemorefoldedsunset said...

The pizza in Giuseppina's,the new South Slope place, is very good too. Is Black Dom there in any capacity?

Ryan said...

Speaking of mobbed up, Brooks, do you know anything about this deli/coffee shop on Carroll near 4th (on the north side of the street)? It has a neon coffee sign in the window, one you'd see at any old luncheonette, except inside I could see no register, no counter - just a few old and middle-aged men playing cards and, when I first walked by there 30 minutes earlier, another paying out money to the same man who was later playing cards. It's clearly not open for outside business.

Amy said...

This kind of violence, while unsettling and horrific, seems to be so much part of the classic neighborhood affairs rather than part of the changing safety of the area. The muggings, lately, and stolen laptops are worrisome. This knife fight ended up in a post I wrote for We Who Are About To Die because I could've witnessed it, but luckily, my timing was off.

If interested: http://wewhoareabouttodie.com/2011/04/19/not-the-best-kind-of-hurt/

Carol Gardens said...

Now don't be telling me that the nice old men at Marietta's who sell the undies and socks are mobbed up!

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Ryan, you can get coffee in the Carroll Street place, though it's not really set up for walk-in customers! Yes, have heard reports of a lot of money changing hands in there, but I don't know much about it. I second the query to Brooks!

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I'm not familiar with the coffee shop at 4th Avenue and Carroll. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Taking the 5th Brooks?

dutchmungo said...

I think the restaurant Fragole, not the card shop, occupies the old Helen's space. But I could be wrong. Helen's has been gone for, what, at least 10 years?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Carol: No, Helen's was definitely in the space now occupied by the card shop (which is currently closed). The weird gold metal facade storefront.

Carol Gardens said...

I think you are talking to dutchmungo, who has a great name!

dutchmungo said...

Okay. I guess it just seemed logical for a restaurant to be replaced with another one. Fragloe replaced Max's, but what was in that space before that?

And I miss Helen's.

Anonymous said...

The social clubs are all gone not due to yuppies but attention ,court streets last mobster to run the area was bobby boriello till his death in.91 before him.Anthony shortly Masscuzzio till he was killed in 1988 both were part of John Gotti.s crew and were in your face wiseguys like John himself the gambino family dominated court street in the 70s and 80s .You had angelos resteruant and joe butch Fontana s dry cleaners mob hang out both on.court and Degraw street ,both were members of the gamnbino.s around the corner Franky Blair s club was another gambino club. Mob Guys were every where. Back.in.the 70s the 80s you still had them around and.didn't hide who.they were like today and yes the neighborhood was much safer with.them around. Today i know of 5 or 6 mobsters who live in.Carroll gardens an.they don't dress the part no suits you see them in jeans Sneakers low key.

Anonymous said...

Theres still punhy and Albert gallo crazy joes brother, as well as his nephew Stevie gallo, the younger guys a couple are made or proposed Benny geritano is not one of them no one wants responsibility for him , John.Farisi is due out soon and sure to get made after 20 years in jail a Gambino associate. and you have Louis Big Lou Fontana an ex Gambino associate whos now a Luchesse family member. Black dom a columbo.also is seen around Henry street , and there's still the bunch from 3rd ave and president street the old persico hangout. Whos to say what will come of these guys who came right before things went bad. But it's a new ball game out there.

Fred smith street .. said...

My gosh I lived on smith street and knew these guys even ran into them at a city nightclub Benny Geritano and Louis Fontana as a matter of fact they were together when i went to bedrocks one time around 1989 i ll never forget benny started a fignt with someone and other guys are holding him back he yells someone give me a bottle pvv
l obviousy to stick the guy with no one does except lou Fontana who joins in a breaks a beer bottle over the guyys head , I recall him later saying he had no idea what the beef was " alll he knew was benny wanted to get at the guy so he joined in the both of them are nuts living here all my life i.should know. Although big lou is friendly with alot of people but if he has problem with you he'a dangerous .As for benny he is just plain crazy.

Anonymous said...

People bring up things that may have happened 30 40 years ago. Of course Benny an Lou know each other.They lived on the sane block for years, Benny's father Anthony shorty had a social club directly across the street from Fontana s home and as. a kid Fontana would sit out side the club with Shorty talking. so what at age 9 are you going to tell me he was teaching him mob buisness. Get a life, they were neighbors.people try and make.everything sound bad. Discrimination is the word. J from court street.