Family back in charge as Feds get out of kitchen

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The Independent Online
THE United States government has finally conceded what everyone knew all along: it cannot make a decent spaghetti bolognaise, never mind fry calamari.

After seven years of trying such Italian dishes in Umberto's Clam House, one of the most famous Mafia cafes in Little Italy, the government has decided to get out of the kitchen and hand it back to to its orginal owner, the Ianniello family.

The 'Feds' took over the restaurant along with several other Ianniello family appendages after they had found evidence to suggest its revenues were being illegally skimmed or siphoned by Matthew 'Matty the Horse' Ianniello, a former mobster who is now in prison.

Considering the inability of government anywhere to produce edible fare even in a cafeteria, this was a bold move. Even more so as Umberto's is notorious as the setting for the final gun battle of Joseph 'Crazy Joey' Gallo, leader of the violence- prone faction in the Colombo crime family. He was gunned down as he sat munching zesty shellfish on 7 April 1972. Bullet holes from the battle between the assassins and Mr Gallo's bodyguards can still be seen on a doorway on Mulberry Street, across from the restaurant.

Matty the Horse, now 73, and eight other men were convicted in 1985 of skimming dollars 2m ( pounds 1.3m) from Umberto's and other Manhattan restaurants and bars. Matty, who was identified as the capo in the Genovese crime family, is serving a 13- year prison term for racketeering.

His son, Robert, has in theory had veto over the menu since the government seized the restaurant and took over its management. But customers say the food was never as good as when Matty had a say in it. What had once been a thriving local and tourist cafe became a backwater. Profits, which had been good, dwindled to nothing. People came to see the bullet holes, but they did not eat.

Now Robert Ianniello, who says he has 'a deep emotional attachment' to Umberto's, is going to take back the kitchen and he is optimistic the butcher-block tables will again be full.