America's Oldest Pizzeria Has Mafia Ties, Investigators Allege

Is the oldest pizzeria in America linked to the Mafia? Investigators with a state gaming control board claim Yes, it is...

Alleged Genovese capo John Brescio was the public face of Lombardi's.


Lombardi’s Pizza was founded in Manhattan’s Little Italy in 1905 and was the place where pizza was created. As per The New York Times, "New York pizza did not exist before 1905, when Gennaro Lombardi, a Neapolitan immigrant, began to sell pies in his grocery store in Little Italy. Lombardi's was by most accounts the first New York pizzeria" ... It touts on its website that it's "(s)till located in the Little Italy section of Manhattan" where it offers "its beautiful, smoky-crusted coal oven baked pizza, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil"... Mafia or no Mafia, let's all meet there and have a slice....

 Lombardi's was slated to expand into the Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pa, in time for Christmas 2017.

However, the deal was nixed when allegations surfaced about Lombardi’s Brooklyn born owner, restaurateur Michael Giammarino, being linked to the Mafia.

Last December, only weeks before Lombardi's was scheduled to open in Parx, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board moved to revoke Giammarino’s permit, with state investigators alleging that he and his pizza shop were unsuitable to be a gaming service provider because of “associations with reputed organized crime members,” according to Philly.com.




In May of 2017, it was reported that Lombardi's was slated to be part of a $50 million expansion of Parx Casino. “Lombardi's, a coal-fired pizza specialist that dates its founding in New York City's Little Italy to 1905, is a familiar name in the Philadelphia area,” a news release declared.

Giammarino had operated a Lombardi's branch on South 18th Street near Sansom from 1998 to 2005.  Then in 2012, Giammarino opened Gennaro's Tomato Pie near South Philadelphia High School.

As part of the deal with Parx, the casino operator paid Giammarino $155,000 for his investment, only they ultimately dropped Lombardi's.

Earlier this year another pizzeria, Oliveto, opened in the casino instead.

Giammarino is challenging the decision and is working on clearing his name. "Everybody's going to make the assumption that I'm mobbed up, and it's not true,” he told Philly.com.

The 53-year-old restaurateur said he "barely" knew the two intermediaries who recruited him —John (Baby John) Delutro — aka the Cannoli King of Little Italy-- who operates Caffe Palermo on Mulberry Street and is allegedly a second-generation member of the Gambino crime family -- and Joseph DeSimone, who was both a Parx patron and an alleged wiseguy from South Philadelphia. He since has copped to once being tied to former boss John Stanfa. DeSimone also was once identified by a mob hit man in testimony only as Joe Fudge—he’d been tortured with a power drill by former capo John Veasey .

The Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor also named Giammarino’s stepfather, John Brescio, as a captain in the Genovese crime family. (Brescio had been known as “the public face” of Lombardi's in New York.)

"I just don't understand how all these people's misdeeds got basically tattooed on me," Giammarino said at an appearance last month before the gaming board, which is slated to rule on the revocation this week (on Nov. 28). 

"Everywhere our investigators looked in this matter, they found histories of drug trafficking and ties  to organized crime," Michael Roland, a lawyer with the board's Office of Enforcement Counsel, said at the Oct. 31 hearing.

Roland urged the gaming board to reject any casino supplier with even a whiff of organized crime connections. "We encourage the board to take a zero tolerance policy to any association with organized crime by any applicant or licensee," he said.

DeLutro, aka "Baby John," reportedly made the initial introductions when he walked a Parx contingent to Lombardi's Pizza on Spring Street in April of 2014. Brescio, who managed the store, gave them a tour--and some free slices of pizza.

Ultimately, Parx officials decided they wouldn't be doing business with DeLutro after uncovering his "extensive criminal history" and ties to the Gambino crime family.


Baby John was once known as Little Italy's Cannoli King


We'd bet a certain report in the New York Post also probably made the Parx officials think twice about getting in bed with the Cannoli King....

As per an April 2014 report, Little Italy waitress Angela Henderson, then 27, accused DeLutro, identified as a Gambino soldier, of sexually harassing her at his Caffe Palermo on Mulberry Street.

As per Henderson, he had demanded that she date him. He also allegedly said that he "liked her ass," according to the documents.

Furthermore, Delutro asked [Henderson] out on dates many times after she began working” for him in February 2012.

Henderson told Delutro that “not only was she not interested in his sexual advances but that she only wished to work in a peaceful environment,” the papers say.

"Henderson also alleges that Delutro tried to work her to death at the restaurant — which caters to celeb clients such as Danny DeVito — while ripping her off," the Post reported, noting:

  • He forced her to toil 11-hour shifts seven days a week for several months, with no overtime
  • He allegedly fired her, using her request to change her work schedule so she could attend school as an excuse

Henderson was seeking damages for unpaid wages, emotional distress and mental anguish. The case appears to have been resolved.....

This past February, the Cannoli King was still in business and giving interviews to the New York Times about how much his rent has skyrocketed since he opened his cafe some 45 years ago.

“I started this restaurant when I was 17 and my rent was $75 a month,” Delutro told the Times. “You don’t want me to tell you what it is now. You’ll fall down.”

The lawsuit prompted a member of law enforcement to quip: “She must be a tough broad to file a suit against Baby John." The official then noted that Delutro’s dad, Anthony (Tony West) Delutro, also was a reputed Gambino soldier.

“Like father, like son. They were the Mulberry Street Mafia — just very bad guys.”

John Delutro was imprisoned on narcotics raps in the 1980s by then-US Attorney Rudy Giuliani after he was busted in 1984 with 19 other reputed wiseguys for allegedly running a $230 million heroin and cocaine ring. Delutro was convicted on narcotics charges and sent to federal prison for nine years.

Upon his release, he was placed on parole supervision, which he violated in 2000 by discussing drug deals caught on federal wiretaps with a mob associate in the Caffe Palermo. He was shipped back to prison for three more years.


In 2015, Joseph DeSimone tried to pick up where the Cannoli king had left of...

DeSimone, 65, who was present during the initial Parx meeting with Baby John, had approached Giammarino at his South Philadelphia restaurant, Gennaro's Tomato Pie. "Giammarino said he had never met DeSimone before but was impressed that DeSimone immediately got a Parx official on the phone to set up a meeting," Philly.com reported.

"As talks between the pizza shop owner and Parx got underway, Giammarino said he made it clear that DeSimone was not a partner in the project, though he told Parx officials he might pay DeSimone a small finder's fee for making the introduction. They eventually signed a deal in 2016."

Giammarino said he had no idea that DeSimone had a criminal history.

DeSimone recently acknowledged that he had been aligned with Philadelphia mob boss John Stanfa in the early 1990s.

He also once had an historical run-in with John Veasey, who assaulted him with an electric drill.

DeSimone was identified only as "Joe Fudge" in Veasey's dramatic 1995 courtroom testimony.

DeSimone said he has gone straight since his 2005 release from prison for conspiracy, and he now makes a living from Social Security, odd jobs, and work as a "consultant," connecting parties in business deals.

DeSimone said that Giammarino is "100 percent legit," and that he introduced the pizza shop owner to Parx officials because he hoped to earn a commission, not because he was getting a foothold in the casino for the mob. He is still unhappy with Giammarino that he never got a finder's fee.

Parx permanently banished DeSimone from the casino last Christmas Eve, three days after the gaming board moved to revoke Giammarino's permit. A Parx spokeswoman declined to comment.


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