OPINIONOperations

When reports of a restaurant-Mafia connection were more than rumors

Restaurant Rewind: A once-celebrated New York City chef confirmed the rumors when he revealed his double life as a mob wise guy. Here's his story.

As any fan of "The Sopranos" knows, mobsters love good food almost as much as they relish ill-gotten money. No wonder organized crime is constantly rumored to be intertwined with the restaurant business.

For veterans of New York City, those insinuations are far from fanciful. Long-timers know the dining landmarks where Mafioso kingpins were whacked after a meal, and where you have to be careful not to kick fellow guests in the ankle lest you set off their back-up guns. A line of black limos outside means you don’t tell Italian jokes while waiting for a table, and the men’s dress code might include a pinky ring. 

If there were any doubts of a connection between cooks and capos, they were dashed a few years ago when once-celebrated chef David Ruggerio came clean on his involvement with the mob. While earning stellar reviews for his fare at New York’s La Caravelle, the second cousin to famed gangster Carlo Gambino pursued a second life as a goodfella, hijacking trucks, shaking down other crooks and dealing drugs.

He eventually left the business to avoid jail time, and decided to air his criminal past after several partners in crime were killed and he was disrespected by a godfather of sorts.

It’s an incredible story, and you can learn it by hitting Play on this week’s episode of Restaurant Rewind, the podcast that looks back at often-forgotten nuggets from the industry’s past.  Listen this week for a snapshot of how a real wise guy made it in the business.

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