Travel Writers: Mafia and Meatballs By Nathan Abbott

Location: Mulberry Street, Little Italy, New York City, USA

It’s Christmas time and the city is buzzing with an intense shopping fever and the desire to party. The air is cold and crisp. Bright sunshine glows over an aqua sky. My friend Tony is taking me to his favourite restaurant for what he tells me is the best spaghetti and meatballs in the city; which is in the old stomping ground of mafia boss John Gotti and the backdrop for several Hollywood mobster movies. After soaking up the different vibes and cultures of the city, I’m ready for a feast!

As I tuck into my incredible spaghetti and meatballs Tony comments that we are the only customers, the staff are huddled together joking over various female encounters and football! Then I look up to see a very slippery character enter the restaurant. He almost blinds me with his shiny silver suit, a three quarter length cashmere coat draped over his shoulders; hair slicked back, shades on, diamond rings glistening! Who is this guy? A De Niro impersonator? Meatballs are no longer the centre of attention!

A waiter rushes over. The guy says “I’m here to see your boss Tommy, get Tommy ok”. The waiter obeys. Seconds later Tommy appears; the owner of the restaurant, a mountain of a man, he looks as tough as teeth with a head only a mother would love! He greets the guy with handshakes and kisses; they get coffee and take their business outside. I notice the conversation is getting heated New York Italian style! Tony and I start to joke that this is too surreal, is an episode of The Sopranos being filmed?

The men re-enter not a word is said. The guy takes a seat and sips his coffee. Meanwhile; Tommy is talking to someone on the phone; then the conversation blows up like an atom bomb. His language is hardcore and Tony and I start to feel a bit twitchy! “Look!” shouts Tommy, “you owe me 5 grand, I’ve got the guy sitting right here, ready and waiting you understand me? I want the money or ya dead! You over, you’re finished, understand?!”

Feeling a tad uncomfortable; worried not to offend we play the polite Englishman Hugh Grant role. While, Tommy is threatening the life of Mr. Dead, he orders our waiter over, “hang the **** on” he yells at the guy on the phone. Tommy tells the waiter to get me and Tony “the **** out!”

The waiter slaps the bill in front of us; “ok boys it’s time for you to go ok.” Now we can take a hint, we pay the bill; and then walk between a fuming Tommy on our left, still yelling death threats over the phone, and the Casanova assassin on our right. The door slammed shut, the sign turns to closed and the blinds are drawn.

Since then I have never looked at spaghetti & meatballs in quite the same way!

Text © Nathan Abbott, all rights reserved.

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