Saturday, July 9, 2011



With his hands in the labor unions in both the meat and poultry  business, it was only natural that the King of Cluck, Frank-It-Takes-a-Tough-Man-to-Make-a-Tender-Chicken Perdue would come calling on Big Paulie when he was having some union problems in one of his factories.

Perdue wanted a meeting with The Don to ask his his help to "straighten out" his labor woes, a decision he sorely regretted later on. The grocery retailers got wind of Perdue's plan, and it rubbed the sympathetic butchers' union the wrong way. In retaliation they stopped advertising specials for Perdue products and began pushing rivals because they felt that Frank was running afoul by being associated with the mob. In the end The Don never interceded with Perdue’s labor force troubles.

Anyone crossing the 800 strong Gambino Family could wind up butchered, bagged and dumped in some land fill, fitted with a pair of cement shoes faster than they could say “I’ll see that in a slip on” or shot and stuffed in a car trunk and left somewhere in one of the bridge-and-tunnel boroughs. Castellano gave the kill orders on anyone who crossed him or the family.


It was no more peanuts and Cracker Jack for
Godfather Carlo Gambino when he had a heart
attack and died while watching the Bronx Bombers clinch the AL Championship on TV with a 9th inning homer off the bat of Chris Chambliss on October 15, 1976. Just before, he had dubbed brother-in-law Paul, not underboss Neil Dellacroce, the next head of the family. This was a decision that would not sit well with Dellacrocce nor his Brooklyn crew especially Lieutenant John Gotti. Johnny had several beefs with his new boss, one being that Castellano looked down on the money being brought in by the Brooklyn crew as it went against the new godfather's corporate image. He had a strict policy of no drug dealing but was more of a hypocrite than Gotham's Harvey "Two Face" Dent and greedier than a Hollywood agent demanding 15% over the standard 10 on drug deals where his underlings were involved. This was the beginning of the end for the new Boss of Bosses.

By 1983 the FBI was closing in on Castellano with "Operation Meathead" (aptly named for his lifetime roots in the meat business). After months of surveillance the FBI was able to plant a bug on a lamp over the kitchen table where the boss conducted his business. At the end of 3 months, the feds had more than enough taped evidence to build their case. Future NYC hizzoner Rudy Giuliani had scored his dream job as Federal Organized Crime Czar and went after the 5 families with the zeal and vengeance of one of Michael Vick's pit bulls. Czar Giuli was on a mission to bring the mafia to their unbroken kneecaps. He had a personal agenda feeling that these mafia malignancies had besmirched the name of all Italian Americans, he being one. Under the RICO Act, Castellano was indicted along with members of all the NY crime families.

At 70 the boss was used to his comfortable lifestyle which included mistress in residence Gloria Olarte. By the '80s Paul's wife, Nina, had had enough of her husband's billing and her maid's cooing throughout their mansion's 17 rooms and moved out. Gloria became the queen of the castle and the bocce court. She wound up spending even more time on her knees and that was not scrubbing floors!

John Gotti was on the warpath as there were rumors his crew was going to be disbanded and assigned to other operations as part of the don's plan to go legit. Castellano had been losing credibility by blatantly carrying on with Maid Gloria in front of "the family" and  wife Nina. Mafia wives and mothers are held sacred by the organization even though having a gumada is a given for any respectable wiseguy - just don’t flaunt it in front of the long-suffering wives. Everyone was afraid Paulie would cut a deal and rat them out in exchange for staying out of prison so he could hold on to all his creature comforts. The penultimate straw was the boss not attending the funeral of Neil Dellacroce, a major breach of mafia etiquette. The last straw - naming his driver and “ear” Tommy Bilotti who was purported to not only be a classless street thug, but also not the sharpest tool in the shed and a polar opposite to the more reserved, business savvy godfather. They looked like a sight gag together - Paulie a hulking 6’3”/270 lbs.  and Tommy short and squat.

Two weeks after Dellacroce’s death, the ruthless Gotti and soon-to-be underboss and future rat, “Sammy the Bull” Gravano cooked up a plan to off their boss. A 5:30 meeting was set up by Frank DeCicco at Sparks Steak House on East 46th Street in Manhattan for the don to pay his respects to Buddy Dellacrocce, Neil’s son.

Big Paulie always ordered his favorite at Sparks...third cut prime ribeye steak. He had a ritual before ordering. The steak had to be brought to his table for his inspection before grilling; a USDA prime slab of beef – nothing but the best for The Meat Baron. The third cut is the best of the 6th to 12th rib section. Although short on insulin, the boss musta been OK with his cholesterol.* Seems Gotti in cahoots with Gravano conspired to cancel Castellano’s reservation for what was to be his last meal. 


Every step of the rub out plot was calculated to be swift and anonymous. The 3 assassins wielding semiautomatic weapons were all identically dressed in KGB/Cossack chic: light colored trench coats and black fur hats. The loud and foul mouthed new underboss, Bilotti, nosed the black Lincoln up to the curb in the no parking zone right in front of the canopy of the posh eatery. Tommy had preferred parking, whatcha get when you make a hefty donation to the PBA. In exchange one gets a window sticker to display prominently, something every mafia "fleet" car should have and a necessary convenience in NYC. As soon as Castellano opened his door, he was hit six times in the head and chest. Bilotti watched as his boss went down and when he got outta the car he took half a dozen bullets to his head, neck and chest. 

The ambush couldn’t have taken more than a minute or two. After the shooting both men were left lying in 2 pools of blood. 
Where There's Sparks There's Gunfire
The streets bustling with Xmas shoppers
provided easy camouflage for the identically and generically dressed hitmen to disappear into the sidewalk crowds as they worked their way toward a getaway car waiting for them on 2nd Avenue. Eyewitnesses all said the same thing, "A few guys in trench coats and black fur Russian hats." And so it came to pass on the chilly night of December 16, 1985, both Paulie C. and Tommy B. were voted off the island, put into deep freeze and Lieutenant  Gotti became Don Gotti. As Napoleon had crowned himself emperor, the Dapper Don declared himself the new Gambino Family Boss of Bosses.
Don Bonaparte


If you're gonna be DWTD or cooking for him, you don’t wanna take the chance of serving him anything but the best. No choice or select grades, only prime cuts unless you’re willing to take the risk of winding up hung on a hook frozen to death in a meat locker somewhere around 14th St. and 12th Ave. or the Hunts Point Market in the South Bronx.
Since only two percent of all prime rib is sold to the general public, this beef grade is saved for top restaurants. I suggest you buy from fine butchers as opposed to supermarkets. If you live in a city where there are no high-end meat dealers, go online to sites like or One of the best sites I found is, a comprehensive website that explains everything you ever wanted to know about steak but were afraid to ask. There is also a side bar menu of assorted high quality meat purveyors. I called Schatzie’s from the list and spoke with the man himself. It was great just to hear the thick New York accent plus he answered all my questions - a real NYC whaddha guy!                   

The Man and the Meat
Schatzie could definitely stand toe to toe with Don Castellano with all his years of experience and expertise.
And this guy is just fun to watch with his grilling recipe for prime ribeye steaks:*


Be the smartest dressed wannabee hitman in your neighborhood – Men’s traditional London Fog trench coats and Russian Cossack sheepskin hats best buy (discounted at more than 50%) at For the more politically correct, faux fur Russian Cossack hats and wider selection of real fur go to:

12 ounce rib eye comes in at:
Calories: 668
Protein:  100-grams
%RDA fat: 36%
%RDA cholesterol: 88%

For the faint of fat or the HDL cholesterolly challenged, go with the champ; get yourself a George Foreman lean-mean grilling machine!

Since most of you won't be going into a diabetic coma by enjoying a  good wine with this fine cut of beef, the consensus on several websites is to go with a Shiraz. 
 Mob Speak Glossary

RICO: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
PBA - Police Benevolent Association 

Special thanks again to FBI Agents Joseph F. O'Brien (ret.) and Andris Kurins (ret.) for Boss of Bosses and John H. Davis for Mafia Dynasty both of which were invaluable sources for my research.

All content of  "Dining with the Don" except for credited photos are original works copyrighted by Mafia Cook. No portion may be copied or reprinted without permission of the author.


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