Joey Merlino

Pizza oven shotguns, Stephen Starr’s first restaurant and Halloween hits: 8 Philly spots where the mob dined

On Halloween night 1989, the South Philly restaurant Dante & Luigi’s experienced an attempted mob hit straight out of a Mario Puzo novel. A mobster entered the restaurant wearing a mask, carrying a trick-or-treat bag, and bullets flew at the son of a former mob boss.

Sounds like a cool place to take your date for Valentine’s Day, huh?

With the assistance of George Anastasia, a former mafia beat writer for the Inquirer and author several mob-related books including the new “Gotti’s Rules,” Billy Penn brings you eight restaurants where Philly mobsters liked to eat — or, in some cases, to whack a guy. Most of them are popular because they are located in areas where mobsters grew up or lived, and, Anastasia says, most of them are very good restaurants.

And remember, they are NOT mob-affiliated restaurants. They are restaurants where the mob liked to hang out or where incidents involving the mob happened.

The Continental

138 Market Street, est. 1995

Mob tie: Continental is Stephen Starr’s first restaurant and different from the rest of these restaurants given its Old City location and non-Italian fare. But Anastasia says 90s mob boss Joey Merlino liked eating here before hitting up the bars with his boys.

Good for: Lobster mashed potatoes

Dante & Luigi’s

762 S. 10th Street, est. 1899

Mob tie: Mobster Nicky Scarfo Jr. was shot inside the restaurant by a masked man who had a gun inside a trick-or-treat bag on Halloween night 1989. He lived.

Good for: Perciatelli Genovese, Veal with pasta and bolognese and white wine sauce

La Veranda

30 N. Columbus Blvd. (Penn’s Landing), est. 1987

Mob tie: John Stanfa, a 90s Philly mob boss, was a fan, and in 1992 mobster Rosario Bellocchi attempted a hit on Biagio Adornetto, who was working as a pizza maker. Bellocchi aimed his shotgun at Adornetto’s head by the pizza ovens, but the gun didn’t go off when he fired. The hit failed.

Good for: Bistecca Fiorentina, a 28 oz. Porterhouse

Melrose Diner

1501 Snyder, est. 1935

Mob tie: A Merlino associate, Frank Baldino, was shot to death in the parking lot after a meal at the Melrose.

Good for: Baked goods

Oregon Diner

302 W. Oregon Avenue, est. 1960s

Mob tie: Before Nicky Scarfo rose to Philly mob boss in the 80s, he stabbed and killed someone in this diner in 1963 in an argument over a seat. The mob sent him to Atlantic City, a mafia wasteland at the time, for this transgression.

Good for: Its $9.99 specials

Popi’s

3120 S. 20th Street, est. 1993

Mob tie: Popular place for mobsters to meet with their families

Good for: Sinatra-inspired singers on the weekends and traditional fare like Chicken Marsala

Radicchio Cafe

314 York Avenue, est. 2000

Mob tie: Favorite haunt of former 2000s-era mob boss Joe Ligambi.

Good for: Fish specialties like branzino, salmon and dover sole

Saloon

750 S. 7th Street, est. 1967

Mob tie: Former Philly mob bosses Merlino and Ligambi liked to eat at Saloon, and in 2009 the mafia had a Christmas party there.

Good for: Clams pavarotti, clams, shrimp and crab in a bechamel sauce

×