“Leave The Gun”

My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?

The Godfather is the truest movie about politics that has ever been written.

All you needed to eat well in New York in the 1970s was roasting pan, a hot oven and mob connections
by Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon
April 25, 2018

The first time I cooked bluefish, it was terrible. It was gray and oily and fishy smelling, and my girlfriend and I managed only a couple of bites before we threw it in the trash. I reluctantly went back to buying flounder, a comparative fortune at a dollar a pound for fillets.

Then one night I was having dinner around the corner from my loft at Rocco’s on Thompson Street, and I saw they had bluefish on the menu, so I asked the waiter if it was good, and he made one of those classic Italian waiter moves, kissing his forefinger and thumb and closing his eyes. “Magnificent,” he promised.

So I ordered the bluefish. He was right. It was light, and fragrant of herbs and lemon and wine, served with boiled new potatoes and flat beans. I couldn’t believe it was the same fish I had bought on Bleecker Street and failed so miserably at cooking, so I asked the waiter how they fixed it.

“Come with me,” he said, heading for the swinging doors into the kitchen. I followed. He introduced me to the chef, and older Italian guy in an apron with a white cloth tied around his head. They passed a few words in Italian I couldn’t understand, and the chef gave me a big grin and headed for the walk-in refrigerator. He emerged with a whole bluefish which he quickly and expertly filleted. He spoke English with a heavy accent, but I could follow him all right.

“You take the fillets like this,” he said, laying them side by side, skin side down, in a black graniteware roasting pan on which he had sprinkled a few drops of olive oil. “Oregano. Not too much,” he said, sprinkling flakes of dried oregano on both fillets. “Now lemon.” He grabbed one and grated lemon rind over both fillets. “Salt, pepper,” he added with a flourish. “Now some wine.” He grabbed a bottle and splashed white wine liberally into the pan around the fish. “You must have hot oven,” he said, opening one of his ovens and sliding the pan inside. “Four hundred . . . five hundred is better.”

I asked him to show me how he had filleted the bluefish, so he went to the fridge and brought out another and more slowly this time, demonstrated how to cut the fish along the backbone and then carefully carve the fillet, cutting against the bones. “Like so!” he said, triumphantly holding aloft one of the fillets.

By the time he had filleted the other side, he declared that the bluefish was done, and removed the pan from the oven. He lifted the fillets onto a plate, cut a couple of pats of butter and swirled them around in the roasting pan with the wine and spooned a little atop each fillet. Handing me one fork, he used another to take a bite for himself and smacked his lips. I took a bite. Like the one I had ordered for dinner, it was perfect.

Tony Dapolito was the mob’s political guy in the Village. He was a member of the local planning board, he belonged to the Village Independent Democrats, if the “guys from the neighborhood” needed something done politically, Tony was their man. In the early 1960’s, Robert Moses was flexing his muscles and threatening to build the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a freeway across Canal Street that would have built an elevated highway over Washing(ton) Square Park in the Village and wiped out most of Little Italy and Chinatown.

One night, Tony Dapolito picked up Jane Jacobs (author of “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”) and Mary Nichols, the city editor of the Village Voice, the two of whom were leading the opposition to Moses and his insane plan, and drove them to an unmarked storefront on Mulberry Street. Inside sat Carlo Gambino, the mob boss, having a cup of espresso.

Tony served espresso to Jane and Mary, and with Tony standing by, (Gambino) asked them about their opposition to the Lower Manhattan Expressway. They told him of the blocks of Thompson and Mulberry and other streets that would be wiped out, the truck exhaust it would bring to the South Village. When they were finished, Tony drove them home. A few days later, the construction unions came out in opposition to Moses’ expressway. The city government rejected Moses’ expressway in 1964, and his career laying concrete was finished.

Years later, when I was living in the loft on Houston, the neighborhood suffered a spate of daytime burglaries. Somebody was going up fire escapes when people were out of their apartments at work and taking TV’s, stereos, jewelry . . . anything he could grab. Clark Whelton, who was also a staff writer on the Voice, lived on McDougal Street, and a couple of apartments in his building had been hit, along with others on his block.

So Clark and I went to see Tony. He gave a deep sigh and said he knew about the burglaries, that it was a “local kid” who had a drug problem, but “the boys” were looking for him, and they’d find him pretty soon and get him off the streets. In the meantime, Tony told us to take a sheet of paper and write in magic marker “STAY THE FUCK OUT” and put the signature “VINNIE” underneath. Tape the paper to the window leading to the fire escape. That would do it for the time being.

This is the way it’s done. This is the way it’s always been done.

Who’s being naive Kay?

Don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.