On a narrow street at the edge of town sits a squat brick building. There are no windows. On the street, lookouts watch for unfamiliar faces. The few who do enter are carefully watched.
Inside: the headquarters of the most powerful mafia family in this country.
This is Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken, NJ. In the 1980’s, it functioned as home to the Genovese crime family. Law enforcement attention had made the Genovese family’s usual haunts in Little Italy uncomfortable, and much of the family decamped to New Jersey to meet.
Casella’s was owned by Genovese soldier Martin “Mots” Casella, but the real power belonged to Louis “Bobby” Manna, consigliere of the Genovese family. As one of the top leaders, Manna held numerous meetings at this bunker-like restaurant. Another fixture was Hoboken bookie Peter “Petey Cap” Caporino, whose own social club was a few blocks away.
In 1987, Manna began to plot the murder of Gambino family boss John Gotti. He made those plans where he felt most comfortable: at Casella’s. Gotti had broken mafia rules by killing prior Gambino boss Paul Castellano. The Gambino family was also the Genovese’s biggest rival.
Before the hit could be carried out, the FBI tipped Gotti to the danger, likely saving his life. But how did the FBI know about the plan in the first place?
Shortly before Manna hatched the plot to murder Gotti, the FBI had done what they previously thought impossible: placed a bug inside Casella’s. It gave them the planning of the Gotti hit, the murder of associate Irwin Schiff, and a lot more.
Manna and other top Genovese members were sentenced to lengthy prison terms in a trial that was a who’s who of future political stars: NJ Attorney General Samuel Alito went on to become a Supreme Court Justice, federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff became Secretary of Homeland Security, and the judge happened to be future president Donald Trump’s elder sister.
After a sale, closures due to code violations, and a fire that destroyed the apartments above, Casella’s was finally demolished at the end of 2020. All that remains of this intriguing piece of history is a vacant lot.
I wish I could visit the old Casella’s and order a plate of pasta…if they’d let me in.
More interesting spots in New Jersey:
- A Notorious Mob Informant’s Hoboken Headquarters
- Visiting Uncle Junior’s Headquarters from The Sopranos
- A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?
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