It didn't take very long for me to figure out that, Vinny, the guy who owned Pasta Brokers was a criminal and it wasn't very long after that I discovered he was an organized criminal, but it wasn't until the hit on Eddie Leno made the front page of the New York Post and all the Gambino royalty showed up on the six o'clock news entering and exiting the Racuglia Funeral Parlor in Queens that I began to realize that I knew a lot of the guys from work. Now a thinking man might have decided at that point that it was time to look for another job but I guess I wasn't a thinking man and well, I needed the money and hey, the money was good and the scene was exciting. It was the same year Goodfellows came out in the theater and I could take a date into a mobbed up restaurant and sign for the bill. Back then in the early Nineties there were no cell phones and personal computers were a novelty, so as the day bartender for Vinny I was also kind of like a personal secretary and manager, co-ordinating deliveries and business for the restaurant, vetting his phone calls, maintaining his phone book, keeping mental notes on information he needed which no one could write down and in the process I became pretty good buddies with Frankie the Chef who was Vinny's best friend from childhood and who, with my help ran the restaurant.
During the day we were pretty slow and we did a little business at night so there came a point in time when it was decided we needed to boost sales and this boost came in the form of a Piano player with a jazz trio. The guys name was Mike Cerruti and he was a music legend in New York mob circles. He played all the jazz standards, show tunes and Frank Sinatra covers that the silk suit guys loved and he drew in the Bonnano's Gambinos, Luccheses, Genoveses and Columbos in droves, packing the place and raining down the cash. I made a ton off these guys too as no one, bar none, in my entire experience of life, tips better.
Now sometimes in life you gotta be careful of success because it can attract unwanted attention and that's what happened to Vinny, because his boss, a Capo named Ronnie became really interested in the doings at Pasta Brokers when the music started. It became a show place for his crew and Vinny got put under a lot of pressure, almost like a GM getting ready for a Corporate visit. So it was like the end of the world the day the health department shut us down. I understand why they did it, I really do, the back of the house was filthy, the basement flooded whenever it rained and hey, it was Manhattan, there were rats and mice and roaches and absolutely nobody there knew anything about food safety. So they shut us down. They came on a Monday at 10 AM and by 11 AM they were slapping the sticker notices over the windows and doors and telling us we had fifteen days to prepare for a re-inspection. Well the inspector left and Frankie and I sat down at a table near the bar with a pot of demitasse and a bottle of Sambuca to smoke cigarettes and bitch.
Vinny came through the door at noon, he swept up to us at the table like a roaring storm surge, his face mottled red, smoke seeming to puff from his ears like a cartoon character.
"What the fuck?" He roared, "What the Fuck?!!" He pulled a chair violently up alongside the table where we sat and said in a coiled, controlled, steely tone, "Ronnie is gonna cut my balls off." Then he broke off, making a point to stare me, then Frankie in the eye, each in turn, "Then," he said, "I am gonna cut your balls off!"
I scrambled in my mind, I wanted to keep my balls between my legs, "Hey," I said, "Ronnie only comes here at night, right?"
Vinny looked at me like I'd just pissed on his leg, "So?" he grunted.
"So, the Health Inspectors only work till five."
Frankie started smiling then Vinny, then we all had a shot of Sambuca and that's how we pulled the wool over every one's eyes for two weeks. Every day at five o'clock we posted menus over the health department closing signs and opened for business. Every morning at close we pulled them back down and every day we worked on our health department punch list till we were allowed to officially re-open 15 days later and that's how we deceived the five New York Families and the Health Department of the City of New York.