The Star of Forest Hills

9237016276?profile=originalBy Thom L. Jones

In 1960, Joe and Jack Taliercio opened a restaurant in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. They had worked as chefs in some of the finest restaurants in Europe and in Manhattan, and working as a family, determined to create a historic food locale. They leased premises at 102-11 Queens Boulevard, and began serving food a la Neapolitan style to a rapidly growing and appreciative audience.

They called their place La Stella: The Star.

By 1966, they were a favorite of not only their neighborhood, but also of some very discerning trenchermen across New York who just happened to be part of a criminal organization known by the public as The Mafia, but by its members as Cosa Nostra.

9237016691?profile=originalAnd late one afternoon, between 2:30 and 3:0 pm on Thursday, September 22nd a group of these gentlemen gathered in the restaurant for food and a business discussion in a private basement dining area.

The history records have not furnished us with the menu for this meal, although La Stella was renowned for its batter-dipped and deep fried calamari, its striped bass marechiare and the veal Rolatini which may well have been about to be served to a table covered with bread-baskets, cold antipasto and numerous bottles of wine for the diners who had no intention of telling anybody just what they had gathered for that afternoon when they were so rudely interrupted by the New York police.

So, to this day, why they were here remains a mystery, but one worth exploring.

According to the FBI, the real meeting had taken place previously, probably the day or evening before, and this meal was simply to cement good relationships.

Not unlike the famous mob meet in Palermo, nine years earlier, when after days of gabfests, in one of the city’s better hotels, the group had adjourned to Spano, a famous fish restaurant near the waterfront to eat and drink in the spirit of bonhomie.

The men of the Mafia have always loved their food.

In Sicily, its homeland, the principal occasions for social gatherings were the grandi banchetti, grandi schiticchiate.

These were essentially, male-bonding sessions. Women were never admitted. The Mafiosi ate huge and long-lasting meals and discussed their business over the good food and copious supplies of wine and beer. These banquets, according to anthropologists Jane and Peter Schneider, nurtured an aura of exclusivity as well as fraternal sodality among the diners, insulating them in a culture and psychological space from regular ties to, and reciprocal obligations with, less-favored members of society. In other words, the honest and law-abiding citizens who fed the other never-ending appetite of the Mafia: greed.

Alan May, the crime historian wondered:

Why were the men meeting and having lunch together? Simple answer. Just ask Gay Talese, author of “Honor Thy Father,” a 500 page plus tome on the Bonanno Family. “They had assembled…to discuss pressing problems in the underworld – particularly, the Bonanno situation…”

Or…maybe we should ask Ernest Volkman. He tells us in his much maligned Lucchese Family tale, “Gangbusters,” that the meeting was held to discuss the successor to the terminally ill Tommy “Three Fingers Brown” Lucchese. Volkman also informs us that before the police arrived “flashbulbs suddenly went off,” and that the gangster’s table was surrounded by news photographers.”

Of course the always reliable John H. Davis informs us in his classic “Mafia Kingfish,” that the meeting came to an end when “two alert New York police officers, noting an unusual array of black limousines parked outside…barged into the place…and stumbled upon the largest gathering of major Mafia bosses held since the Apalachin conclave of 1957.” Hmm… I seem to recall that the police “stumbled” upon that “conclave” too.

9237017272?profile=originalDavis goes on to explain that the purpose of the meeting was to mediate a dispute between Carlos Marcello (left) and Anthony Carolla over a matter in New Orleans. Davis also incorrectly informs us that several members of the group reconvened at the restaurant “the following day.”

Four years after “Mafia Kingfish” was released, Davis changed his tune and wrote in “Mafia Dynasty,” that the New Orleans’ dispute was only minor and that the meeting now was held to consider a replacement for the ailing Lucchese.

9237017468?profile=originalThen there is Frank Ragano’s version of the event. In his book, “Mob Lawyer,” the one time attorney for Santo Trafficante, Jr. (right) reports his client told him, “the lunch had been a sit down, not a strategy session. Some New York mobsters were trying to poach on the action in New Orleans, which, unlike Miami, was a closed city, and Carlos was ready to resist intrusions by outsiders. Santo had been anointed by both factions to referee the dispute.”

While all scenarios are possible, it would seem unlikely that Trafficante, Marcello and three other New Orleans mobsters would sit in on Commission decisions that concerned the New York families.

There was even another theory as postulated by the FBI.

In a memo dated October 24th 1972, No: 92-6054-3176, it is stated that one of the reasons for the meeting was that it was a mini-Commission held to give approval to Carlos Marcello to make more soldiers into his crime family. This was based on information the New Orleans office had from one its confidential informants.

This in itself is unusual, as due to the historical importance of the Louisiana family, being probably the first ever established in the United States, it could make its own decisions without seeking the approval of the Commission (the Mafia ruling panel of elders) but due to Marcello’s tact and diplomacy, he sought Commission approval on certain matters like this. Maybe.

Indeed it seems strange that a group of mobsters from down south would travel all the way to New York to try to sort out the Big Apple’s underworld problems, and if the bone of discontent originated in The Big Easy, why did not the panel of adjudication head south and sort out the dispute on home ground?

There had to be more to this than meets the eye, or as these guys might have said, chewing over their garlic bread:

C'è più di quello che si vede a prima vista, delle apparenze, la cosa è più complessa di quanto sembri.

So, just why had they gathered here in New York to talk and eat?

Ralph Salerno who headed up the NYPD Organized Crime Strike Force, gave the following testimony to the JFK Assassination Committee:

I mentioned the La Stella restaurant. I would like to point out for the committee that the seating arrangement here-there were, of course. no seating cards on that luncheon table--yet, the seating arrangement is formal as it could be if the Chief of Protocol for the State Department had, in fact, put place cards there. Mr. Mike Miranda is at the top---

Mr. CORNWELL. Mr. Salem before you tell us about the particular seating arrangement. the committee may not be familiar with the background of that meeting and how it was discovered and the extent it was discovered. Would you just give them a brief background?

Mr. SALERNO. I think that meeting was discovered and how it was discovered is a very fine example of good police intelligence work. Mr. Lucchese one of the leaders of one of the five families located in the city of New York had been stricken and taken ill. We were able to learn that the prognosis was very bad for him, that he had an inoperable brain cancer and could not be expected to live more than 3 to 6 months, which turned out to be the case in fact. The assignment given within my unit was "OK, if what we believe is true and he is in fact, the leader of a Cosa Nostra family, what should happen next?"( We felt that we could determine that some people would have to do different things, the people who ordinarily, the very limited number of people who would meet with and report to the family) (leader would now have to report to someone else. So one intelligence target was who will that next person be. And we were able to come up with a very well educated guess which, over a period of years was a sound one. We established that Mr. Carmine Tramunti would be the leader of that family. I might add Mr. Tramunti is now in Federal prison doing a 15-year term for dealing in heroin. The second prognosis that was made, the projection from analysis was that if, as the FBI and other law enforcement agencies had determined, that the methodology is that when one family leader 9237018259?profile=originalpasses on or is no longer the family leader, that the person who will be nominated from within his family group must have the advice and consent of this board before that nomination is, in fact, confirmed, that there would have to be a meeting of top leadership people in La Cosa Nostra. What we did in the New York City Police Department was target 9237018090?profile=originalseveral people who would most likely attend such a meeting. One of them was the host here, Mike Miranda (right). He was at that time one of the troika who was minding the store for Vito Genovese doing time for heroin. We decided to watch Mike. It was while we were in the process of doing that, that we saw him go to this restaurant. We saw Mr. Carlo Gambino (right) arrive with an associate, Joseph Gallo. Fortunately, one of the young officers assigned to that had seen Mr. Trafficante on one occasion and knew him by sight. When he saw an out of town leader he immediately did what all good cops do, you call the boss and find out what you should do. We contacted the prosecutor who indicated that he had a current matter before a grand jury where these people could very well offer some evidence or advice to the deliberations of that grand jury. He instructed us to bring them all in so that they could be made material witnesses, and that was done. I recall that the court fixed the sum of $100,000 bail for each of the 13, and a bail bondsman came in in very short order and posted $1.3 million bail. He was asked to inform the court for the record what collateral, if any, he had obtained and he said that he was out on the limb for $1.3 million on the basis of their promise to pay.

Mr. CORNWELL. So after feeling there must have been a meeting coming, you went to the restaurant and you found the individuals inside seated in a pattern that is demonstrated by the exhibit?

9237018458?profile=originalMr. SALERNO. Exactly as it is shown here, he is an acting family leader and was the host, so he sits at the top of the table. Those people on his immediate right and left, Carlos Marcello, Santos Trafficante, Tommy Eboli (left), Joseph Columbo, Carlo Gambino are family leaders. It would appear those on the next level of hierarchy sit at the other end of the table. This is Anthony Carolla. In all likelihood he is the person who would pick up the check. The bosses never pay when these people get together. It is always the henchmen. This man is the underboss to Carlo Gambino. This man is the counselor to Carlo Gambino. Those peers are sitting together here. This is Anthony Carolla and a complaint that he might have had with Mr. Marcello is one of the best educated guesses as to the reason for the meeting. This gentleman is from New Orleans and this is Mr. Marcello's brother. Dominick Alongi usually drives Tommy Eboli. He is probably here because he is Frank Gagliano's cousin and this is an opportunity for him to reunite

Smart as he was, Salerno confused Anthony Carillo from new York with Anthony Carolla from The Big Easy. Easy to see why. Carolla-Carillo. Mouth numbing at times, these vowels. The hosts always foot the bill at these sort of functions, so if anyone was picking up the tab it was Carillo from New York, not Carolla from New Orleans.

Just what was the relationship between the men seated at this lunch table?

At the head, sat Michele Miranda, the supposed consigliore or family advisor of the Vito Genovese crime family. He lived in a palatial home in Forrest Hills, knew the area and its 9237018881?profile=originalfacilities intimately, and more than likely chose the venue for that reason.

On his right sat Joe Colombo (right), the new head of the old Joe Profaci family. It has been suggested that Colombo was a good friend of Anthony Carolla and had in fact arranged the meeting(s), voting in favor of his friend, even though overruled by the majority. More on this later.

To Miranda’s left sat Carlo Gambino, allegedly the most powerful Mafia don in America, although that has always been open to debate.

Heading down the table on the right, the seating was, after Colombo, Tommy Ryan aka Thomas Eboli, alleged acting head of the Genovese family while the boss of the same name was in prison in Atlanta.

Next to him sat his driver and bodyguard, Dominick Fat Dom Alongi. He was born and raised in New Orleans before moving to New York.

9237019266?profile=originalThen, Joseph Marcello Junior (right), the brother of the Louisiana mob boss, Carlos Marcelo.

And last before the bottom of the table, Aniello Dellacroce, thought to be the under boss to Carlo Gambino.

9237019459?profile=originalAt the foot of the table sat Anthony Carillo (left), Tony the Sheik, another soldier with Eboli, the guy who would probably pay the bill. Except he never got time to do this.

Moving up from him back to the top, sat Joseph N. Gallo, perhaps the consigliore to Gambino. His counselor and advisor in family matters, although crime historians have debated the validity of this over the years.

Up from him, Frank Gagliano from Louisiana, the cousin of Brooklyn based, Dominck Alongi. They had grown up together on the blue bayou and maybe he was along just to touch base with family (biological not crime.)

Next to him, Anthony Carolla, a senior man in Marcelo’s crime family.

One up, Santo Trafficante Junior, the mob boss from Tampa, Florida and finally, seated next to Gambino, the boss of the Louisiana Mafia, Carlos Marcelo.

9237019489?profile=originalThe oldest man at the table was Miranda aged seventy-one. The youngest, Dominck Alongi (right) at thirty-four.

Neither the Bonanno family or the Luchese family were represented at this meeting.

Tommy Luchese was dying of a brain tumor and was obviously too sick to attend, and the Bonanno crime family was in the middle of a massive family split that became known as The Banana War so it seems pretty certain their CEO, Joe, had his hands full.

In the book ‘The Strength of the Wolf,’ Douglas Valentine claims that the meeting had been called for several reasons:

To address the disruptive Banana War.

To settle a truce between Joe Colombo and Joey Gallo, head of a breakaway faction within the old Profaci Mafia crime family which Colombo had headed since the death of Profaci in June, 1962.

And the primary reason, being the need to organize The New World of Narcotic Order through people like forty-year old Carlo Zippo, one of New York’s biggest drug distributors. Zippo was allegedly a member of the Gambino crime family and close to European narcotic dealers such as Frenchman Christian David and Sicilian Mafioso Tommasso Buscetta.

Interestingly, Valentine is the only writer I can trace, who researched and developed this information regarding Zippo, as one of the items on the agenda of the mob meeting in Queens, along with the Colombo-Gallo dispute.

This is Anthony Carolla and a complaint that he might have had with Mr. Marcello is one of the best educated guesses as to the reason for the meeting.

So. Here is an interpretation of the reason for the gathering as propounded by a New York cop who knew his Mafia. It was to do with two men fighting over the rights to do business in a pretty lawless city deep in the Deep South. What was this all about and more to the point, why would a dispute of this kind finish up being arbitrated in New York?

We need to go back some years into the murky and steamy history of New Orleans and its Mafia links.

The Mafia may well have first surfaced in America in and around New Orleans, operating on the waterfronts here as early as the 1880s.

Charles Matranga was possibly the first known boss and he would rule here until the early 1920s when he handed over the reins to Sylvestro Carolla.

He was unique in the annals of mob bosses in that in 1930 he shot and almost killed a Federal agent, mistaking him for a gunman working for bootlegger William Bailey with whom Matranga was in conflict. Sent to prison he served only two years, but was back inside in 1938 on drug charges being released in 1940. He stayed in power until he was deported in 1947, appointing Carlos Marcello as his interim choice for boss until his return. He came back to the Americas in 1949, to Acapulco, Mexico, where he attended a meeting of mobsters, and then moved to New Orleans and was deported again in 1950. In 1953, he was arrested in Italy for drug trafficking and was sent to prison. He did not make it back to America again until 1970, and died there in 1972.

FBI agent Howard Hughes of the New Orleans office conducted an investigation into the La Stella meeting and discovered through what he claimed to be reliable informants that it was held to mediate a dispute between Marcello and Anthony Carollo over the latter’s position in the family hierarchy. The interrupted luncheon had followed a formal meeting probably the day before, at another location.

This meeting was itself confirmed by an FBI informant known as TP T-21 whose disclosures are on record in the FBI file 124-10204-10205 stored at the National Archives, College Park, Maryland. The informant was classified as a man with ‘intimate knowledge’ of the New York Mafia underworld. According to his statements, Marcello had told him ‘the really serious meeting occurred on the evening of September 21st’ and that ‘the New York Police would have seen some real power if they had known about it.’

Anthony Carollo as the son of the former boss of the family, believed he had a right to a greater share of the action and to be the natural successor to the position of leadership when Marcello died or stepped down.

Agent Hughes determined through his sources that the meeting had actually gone in Marcello’s favour, and that the successor for position of family boss would fall to Carlo’s brother, Joseph Junior.

9237020456?profile=originalSanto Trafficante, the head of the Tampa Mafia, had to be present because of his close relationship with Marcello and his vested interest in the outcome of the dispute in a mob family adjacent to his own.

Frank Gagliano (right), whose own father, a soldier in the family had been deported back to Italy, supported Carollo in his struggle for recognition and his leadership application which apparently lead to an Italian restaurant in Queens.

Which takes us back to Joe Colombo.

The 2010 New Orleans Organized Crime Report on the family structure and known membership of the New Orleans Mafia states:

9237020262?profile=original…….what is not so well-known is that Joseph Colombo set up the La Stella's meeting and-sided with Anthony Carolla (right), but was out voted. Colombo managed to gain one concession for Anthony Carolla: new membership would be allowed but limited. That limited new membership included Joseph "Joe The Nose" Tufaro a close friend of Anthony Carolla and former driver of Sylvestro Carolla

If he did in fact support Carollo’s application, it would have been strange to say the least.

In October 1967, another informant informed his FBI handler that Colombo was in partnership with Marcello in an automatic shoe-shine business that had required start-up capital of $250,000, a considerable amount of money for the time. Hard to believe that a year earlier he was voting against the family head, and yet now, was investing money with him in a business venture.

The Colombo crime family had links into New Orleans and Carlos Marcello that went back many years, including those of Gregory Scarpa, a Brooklyn based capo or crew chief, whose FBI files on this connection have long been hidden from public view. A New Jersey based paralegal, Angela Clemente has been fighting to have these files revealed, to prove her belief that Scarpa who was a federal informant for many years, had information on Marcello and his crime family and their links into the New York underworld and had passed this information over to the FBI.

The connection between Marcello and Colombo would at least explain why the meeting was held in New York. Marcello had probably asked for a Commission Meeting, using Colombo as a go-between, to arbitrate on the dispute, showing modesty and political nous in staying on the right side of the most powerful Mafia groups in the country, even though theoretically, he could have simply sorted the problem out in his own backyard, which is where of course it had arisen.

Whatever was going on, it seems highly probable that Carlos Marcello and Joe Colombo had some kind of relationship that transcended time and tradition.

Dots to be connected. Links to be chained. A never-ending journey down a road leading to nowhere. Typical of any investigation in Mafia matters.

How did the police find these men about to start a late lunch in a restaurant on the border of Long Island?

Mr. Salerno stated his men were watching the movements of Michele Miranda and that brought them to La Stella.

Frank Ragano the lawyer, however, had quite a different story. He claims that the police were able to surprise the guests as they had followed Marcello on his arrival in New York. Under an agreement he had with the U.S. Immigration Service, he was obliged to notify the authorities whenever he left New Orleans in order to simplify their surveillance of him. The cops would have tracked him into New York and picked up the tail as he exited the airport.

Then another source claims the police had noticed the gathering of expensive limousines illegally parked outside the restaurant, decided to investigate and Voila.

Chief Inspector Sandford Garelik of the New York Police who directed the round-up, maintained that the purpose of the police raid was to keep track of how the men related to each other in importance within the underworld hierarchy

The thirteen men, along with the two brothers who owned La Stella were arrested.

They were handcuffed and taken to the Maspeth Police Station House on 72nd Street where the men of the underworld, were required to strip down to their underwear for an unusually thorough body search, and were fingerprinted and had their mug shots taken. Just as they were about to be booked, the interim district attorney for Queens, Nat Herbert Hentel, arrived at the police station.

Instead of the standard charge of consorting with known criminals, i.e. themselves, he wanted the men held as material witnesses for a grand jury he decided to convene to examine organized crime. Although none of these men had arrest warrants against them, and had committed no crimes for which indictments were outstanding, they were held in the station house overnight until a judge could be summoned.

Justice Joseph M. Conroy, deliberated, and set a spectacular bail level of $100,000 for each of them, holding the men as material witnesses in ‘the investigations of major crimes in Queens County, including several mob killings and organized crime rackets.’ Early the next morning, the men were shipped to a civil jail on Manhattan’s West Side where they were subsequently processed and released.

The defence lawyers had a field day. One claimed, Barnum and Bailey couldn’t have dreamed up a bigger three-ringed circus.

The media, who were all over the case like poison ivy, came to dub the affair Little Apalachin following the grandiose statement by Hentel that the La Stella concave was more important than the historic 1957 meeting of sixty plus mobsters at the estate of Mafioso Joe Barbara in Apalachin, upstate New York. Which of course it wasn’t.

He claimed in a press conference he called, that the gathering was a godfather’s meeting, a summit conference called 9237020685?profile=originalto re-organize the mob’s empire. It goes without saying that Nat Hentel, who was up for re-election, was milking this for all it was worth, which as it turned out, was basically nothing.

9237020859?profile=originalOn November 25th 1966, New York police officers raided the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street, Manhattan, the mob headquarters of Dellacroce (left), arresting him, Joseph Gallo (right), Paul Castellano, the brother-in-law of Carlo Gambino, and eight other men who were out on bail for various offences. All charges were dismissed within hours by a night court judge.

It’s also interesting that the term Little Apalachin had already been coined eleven months earlier by New York Times reporter, Paul L. Montgomery.

He had written on October 30th about a meeting taking place the day before at Lombardi’s Restaurant at 53 Spring Street. This get-together involved three of the usual suspects-Miranda, Eboli and Carillo-along with Barney Miranda, Mike’s brother, who was part of his crew, Pete De Feo, Jimmy Nap Napoli and from Florida, Philip The Stick Kavolick, sometimes known as Little Farfel an ex member of the gang ran back in the 1930s and early 1940s by Lepke Buchalter, the only New York mob boss who went to the electric chair. Kavolick had been one of nine Jewish mobsters arrested at their meeting held at The Franconia Hotel on 72ns Street in Manhattan on November 11th 1931 hosted by Bugsy Siegel and Buchalter.

Mob meetings it seemed, transcended race and nationality. These guys in the underworld just loved to get together and talk!

Just what the seven men were discussing that afternoon in Lombardi’s restaurant is as big a mystery as what was going on at La Stella. The men were all charged with consorting with known criminals (again, themselves) for unlawful purposes. And, as expected, nothing came of it.

Tommy Ryan got outed again, two months later, having java at a Greenwich Village coffee shop at 177 Thompson Street, along with Joe Sabbatto, Dom Cirillo, Ed Cohen and Sebastian Onfria on December 30th. They all got hit with the same charges. And again, it became a fizzer.

Next door to the coffee shop (which is now a laundry) is Rocco’s an old-style Italian restaurant, in business since 1922. It was here in 1952, Tony Bender, a capo in the Genovese family had met informant Joe Valachi, and laid down the killing of Eugenio Giannini, one of the hundreds of mobsters who died on the streets of New York, for all kinds of reasons.

This whole area of lower Westside Manhattan was a breeding and cultivating ground for the mob and the Genovese family had first dabs on it.

The corner of Mulberry and Kenmare in Little Italy, was known as the Genovese corner and the crossroads of the underworld.

They were and are so embedded here, that in the underworld they are referred to as The Westside.

The meeting at La Stella was probably one of many such gatherings that took place across metropolitan New York, year in year out. The mob was big business and you can’t operate at this level it seems without lots and lots of sit-downs. Apalachin was the second major concave that law enforcement stumbled upon. Purely by chance, and then good detective work by the local police agency.

These kind of meetings had surely been going on regularly in one form or another since the early 1930s and even before that, though perhaps not as frequently.

There had been a gathering in Cleveland in 1928 and another at Atlantic City in 1929. So hoodlums getting together to talk and eat was nothing new.

Nicola Gentile, Culicchia the mob wanderer, who criss-crossed America in the 1920s and 1930s, adjudicating disputes and settling problems in Pittsburgh, Kansas City and elsewhere, claimed that Mafia from across America gathered in Boston in December 1930 to elect Gaspare Messina Capo die Capei, the Boss of all bosses.

Al Capone had called a mob meeting that attracted delegates from the Eastern Seaboard in the early 1930s.

Having these gatherings it seems, was something of a regular occurrence. Catching them at it, was a different story. Cleveland may have been the very first time, and these ‘capturing’ events were a somewhat rare occurrence for law enforcement.

Frank Ragano claimed that while waiting for the grand jury to convene, and having to be close to the courthouse in the Criminal Court building in Kew Gardens, he and his associates decided one day to have lunch at La Stella which was just over one and half miles north, about a five to seven minute drive by car.

He and Jack Wasserman, the attorney representing Carlos Marcello, along with Trafficante, Marcello and the three other men from New Orleans who had been arrested a week earlier, sat down for lunch of escarole brodo, linguini in white clam sauce, bake clams and assorted wines.

9237021057?profile=originalSoon after they were seated, newspaper reporters, and men who may have been either police or FBI agents arrived in the restaurant, and a Daily News camera man photographed the group. It was published as a concave of Cosa Nostra mobsters and attorneys having lunch. None of the reporters covering it had the nerve to refer to it as a tiny, little Apalachin.

The details subsequently appeared in a Time magazine article which had been merged into the original arrest report, and seemed to infer to Ragano at least that he was a Mafioso. He filed a $2.5 million libel suit against the magazine. He lost out on this, just as the government lost out on La Stella.

After a year of meetings, summons’s and grand jury hearings, the affair of the mysterious lunch disappeared into the archives, and ADA Hentel’s quest for glory and election collapsed under the weight of its own ineptitude. The man who had said ‘he would rid the city of top hoodlums,’ and had woken up Justice Conroy and driven him to the police station to hold court over the 13 men arrested, lost out on the Queen’s D.A. election by 71,000 votes.

On May 18th 1967, Dellacroce, Carillo, Miranda and Gallo were re-arrested and charged with contempt of court. Eboli, Alongi and Colombo were also named in the indictment, but Eboli did not surrender until January 1969, and eventually this case also fizzled out.

Today, La Stella is no longer on Queens Boulevard although the location is still a restaurant, now called Gan-Eden, and depending on the source you consult, is either an Oriental, Polish or Bukharian eating place. La Stella closed its doors in 1992

The brothers Taliercio, Jack, Luigi and John sons of Joseph, moved east and re-established their brand in Great Neck. This restaurant has also closed and by 2003 was under the ownership of Anthony Trobiano. It struggled for a number of years, as Trobiano’s, resurrecting briefly after it was highlighted by Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay in his ‘Kitchen Nightmare’ TV series, but then by January 2010 was also gone, apparently due to tax avoidance problems.

Most, if not all of the men who sat around that dining table in Queens forty-six years ago, are long gone. Marcello himself, died in March 1993, and Anthony Carolla finally got his wish. He took over what remained of the New Orleans Mafia family and ran it for fourteen years until he died himself in 2007.

Fat Frank Gagliano who had supported Anthony back in the day at la Stella, was made the family underboss and stayed there until he died in 2006.

Joe Marcello Junior never got his wish, dying six years after his brother Carlos. He made the seat of power briefly, but was busted by the FBI on a gaming charge, and by 1994 government documents and newspapers were reporting that Anthony Carolla was the family boss.

To all intents, the Mafia family of new Orleans is now more myth than substance, with few, if any of the original Marcello crew left.

Maintaining its ties into the Colombo crime family of New York, the alleged present boss of what is left in New Orleans is allegedly Michael Tufaro. His cousin Dominic Tufaro, was a major drug trafficker with the Colombos until his arrest in 1982. He and Carmine Persico were, along with 18 others, indicted in New York in 1983 on charges of conspiring to distribute heroin, although Persico had all charges against him dismissed.

Some law enforcement sources in New Orleans actually believe Michael Tufaro is in fact part of the Colombo crime family and is trying to re-build the family in New Orleans with the help of some high ranking Colombo leaders.

Investigations carried out by the NOMCC (New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission) indicated that between September 2005 and September 2009, Tufaro was observed in meetings with high ranking officials of the Colombo Crime Family in New York, Florida and New Orleans.

Whatever the future of the Louisiana and New Orleans branch of Cosa Nostra, its past is well and truly established in mob lore because of the little, fat man who went for lunch at La Stella one autumn afternoon in 1967.

Carlos Marcello will always be remembered for his tie into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Along with Sam Giancana, the mob boss of Chicago, who himself has been connected into another major complot, the attempted killing of Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, the mob has ineluctable and long established ties into the murky world of conspiracy linking the American government, its secret service agencies and the caliginous politics of the 1950s and 1960s. Marcello and Giancana were close enough for Marcello to contact the Mafia boss of Chicago to seek his help in trying to resolve his ongoing conflict with Bobby Kennedy, the Attorney General, through Giancana’s friendship with Frank Sinatra, who himself was close to the Kennedy brothers.

Marcello was probably the only mob boss in American history who had been forcibly hi-jacked and deported by the government to a foreign country (Guatemala) in 1961 on a trumped up charge based on an overdue visa. Having tried everything to bring Marcello to justice, Robert Kennedy discovered that he had acquired a birth certificate in the name of Calogero Minacore, by bribing government officials in la Asuncion. Kennedy used this as a way of having Marcello deported, and succeeded, although Carlos made his return to New Orleans two months later. His hatred for the Kennedy brothers grew exponentially to the amount of pressure Bobby applied to him through the justice department.

Whether or not Carlos Marcello was responsible for the death of John Kennedy is something that will continue to be debated as long as crime historians and conspiracy buffs argue over, and write about, the assassination. His place in the Kennedy myth however, will ensure Carlos Marcello a place in history rarely if ever, accorded a man of the Mafia.

For those who may be interested, my biography on Carlos Marcello can be found here. For more of my other articles check out my Mob Corner at Gangsters Inc.

© Thom L. Jones 2012

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  • In 1966 my family and I lived on 68th ave right off of Queens Blvd, which was about 300 ft from LaStella. On the day they made this arrest, my older brother Joey who was 8 at the time, stopped to see what all the commotion was about, He was on the six o'clock news standing directly in front of the late great Carlo Gambino when the man did their perp walk. The article fails to mention the boys werent to happy with the Talierico brothers as two days later in the middle of the night , someone in a late model caddy tossed a bomb at the front door of LaStella, I remember being woken up from the sound of the blast, Ah, the good old days!!!

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