Meatballs: A Brief Pasta-Based History of the Mafia in Broward | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Meatballs: A Brief Pasta-Based History of the Mafia in Broward

In light of Scott Rothstein's alleged Mafiosi takedown of alleged Sicilian mobster Roberto Settineri, the Sun-Sentinel this morning attempted to explain the Mafia's presence in Broward County.

It made brief mention of Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, and Nicky Scarfo, but it was a superficial gloss-over with a few quotes from so-called experts. If you really want to know about the Mafia in Broward, read on.

And the easiest way to chart the Mafia is, of course, through the ristorantes.

Take what is perhaps the county's most popular Italian place, Martorano's on Oakland Park Boulevard. It's owned by Steve Martorano, who is the nephew of infamous 

mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano, a late soldier who worked with Scarfo, one of the basest and most brutal mobsters you'll ever hear about. Long John was a 74-year-old ex-con wiseguy when he was gunned down on his way to the doctor's office in 2002.

When they were under surveillance in the late '90s, veteran wiseguys like John "Sideburns" Cerella, Vinnie "The Fish" Romano, and Jimmy Tortoriello were all documented to frequent the place, according to intelligence reports from organized-crime detectives. Romano, who was mentioned in Henry Hill's autobiography (the basis for the film Goodfellas), preferred, however, to eat his fish at Due Amici, a little Italian place in a strip mall in Pompano Beach.

Those three reputed Genovese crime family soldiers, along with capo Sam Salerno, had deep tentacles in South Florida's open territory at one time. The Bonnano crime family's Anthony Rabito, a player in Joe "Donnie Brasco" Pistone's investigation, has operated in Dania Beach. Most recently, reputed Bonnano capo Gerard Chilli was busted at his restaurant, JJ's, on the Hollywood Boardwalk.

Chilli, along with numerous associates, was hit with several criminal charges in 2006, among them a charge of selling stolen salmon at the restaurant. 

But when it comes to Broward, one crime family stands out: the Gambinos. And here again, that leads to a well-known restaurant chain, Bobby Rubino's A Place for Ribs restaurants, which federal court documents show began as a Mob front. Bobby Rubino himself was a low-level Mafia bagman; the man who really ran the operation was Gambino capo Ettore Zappi, a colorful character who held court for years in Broward County.

Zappi's grandsons, Frank and Anthony Galgano, took over Bobby Rubinos, along with the progeny of another infamous mobster, the former "godfather" Paul Castellano, who was gunned down by John Gotti's crew (which of course also operated in Broward County). Paul and Joe Castellano also own another popular chain, Big Louie's Pizza. They were represented in business by lawyer Dominic Miniaci, who also has longstanding ties, along with his brother, Albert. The Miniacis have long owned Paramount Vending and, despite the ties, are generally accepted as community leaders (the performing arts center on Nova Southeastern University's campus is named for their family).

The guy who blew the whistle on Bobby Rubino's was Pasquale Nigro, whose importance as a Mafia informant dwarfs that of Rothstein's. Nigro also gave testimony about Gambino skimming from Michael Peter's strip clubs.

But the most infamous Broward case involving the Gambino family has got to be the   assassination of Greek restaurateur Gus Boulis. Allegedly involved in that murder was reputed Gambino capo Anthony Moscatiello, who was charged in the Boulis hit along with two associates. Moscatiello is alleged to have masterminded the killing as a favor for businessman Adam Kidan and hence-indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who had purchased Boulis' gambling operation, SunCruz. Not sure what's happening with that case, which has a big flaw: Why would Moscatiello kill Boulis without a specific order from Kidan or Abramoff, who haven't been charged? It's a question that haunts the case.

Not sure where Moscatiello liked to eat, but you can be pretty sure it wasn't Miami Subs, Boulis' restaurant chain. There may be a lot of names in this post, but it's just a small piece of Broward Mob pie. I might add more as it comes to me.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

Latest Stories