Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Blocks America's "Oldest" Pizzeria From Opening In Casino

Investigators mentioned three crime families in filings -- the Gambino, Genovese, and Philadelphia crime families.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday (November 28) to reject a hearing examiner's recommendation that state investigators had failed to prove conclusively that Lombardi's owner Michael Giammarino, above, was unfit to work in a casino.

Law enforcement officials alleged that the Mafia was attempting to infiltrate Pennsylvania casinos through Lombardi's, which was founded in New York's Little Italy in 1905 and has credible claims to being America's first pizzeria.

Giammarino plans to appeal the decision, though he seems to face an uphill battle.

"The bottom line is that the investigative and prosecutorial arm of the board failed to establish a single fact which might indicate that Michael Giammarino has done anything wrong in connection with his efforts to establish a Lombardi's at Parx," Giammarino's attorney said in a statement.

As noted, the 53-year-old restaurateur said he "barely" knew the two intermediaries who had 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. DeSimone was once identified by a mob hit man in testimony 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 was “the public face” of Lombardi's in New York.)

Giammarino professed his innocence at an Oct. 31 hearing, saying he was unaware of the alleged organized crime ties of his stepfather, as well as the intermediaries who had acted as brokers between Parx and Giammarino.

"I just don't understand how all these people's misdeeds got basically tattooed on me," Giammarino said in an interview this month.

"Everybody's going to make the assumption that I'm mobbed up, and it's not true."

The gaming board's investigators had recommended the board reject any casino supplier with even a trace of organized crime connections.

According to law enforcement officials, in the mid-1980s, while still in high school, Michael Giammarino met and began doing side jobs for a businessman who also was a contractor and retail store owner. Giammarino, around age 19 or 20, handled “legitimate jobs” for him—though at some point, the jobs became less than legitimate. Giammarino was convicted in 1988 for “intimate involvement" in a drug distribution operation that distributed its wares to a select clientele, specifically “professionals such as doctors, attorneys, accountants, and city employees.”

The businessman–not named in the filings to which we’ve been privy– had built up this network of clients.

After his arrest, Giammarino “felt remorse for his actions” and cooperated with police, and the charge was downgraded to possession.

His stepfather, John Brescio, is reputed to be a capo in the Genovese crime family.

Giammarino knew that his stepfather had a criminal record but denied knowing about his stepfather’s status in an organized crime family.

Brescio’s criminal history is extensive and includes a 1977 conviction for petit larceny, an October 1978 conviction for promoting gambling, a December 1979 conviction for possession of a gambling device, a January 1979 conviction for possession of a gambling device, a November 1978 conviction for two counts of forgery, an October 1979 conviction for possession of a gambling device, August 1986 convictions for conspiring to distribute heroin near a school and unlawfully possessing a firearm, for which he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Brescio assumed a public profile as being the owner of Lombardi’s in New York, even after something called JBJV Trust became the owner.

Brescio was named as the owner of Pizza of 32 Spring Street, Inc. in a 2006 federal lawsuit filed on behalf of several Lombardi’s employees.

At the time of the recent investigation for the gaming board, Brescio was signatory of a Pizza of 32 Spring Street, Inc. bank account. Brescio had been added due to the sudden passing away of his wife, Joan Volpe. Brescio did not write checks on the account and his name was removed from it.

A May 2, 2017 press release from the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor reported that someone had been denied a checker application in part because of an association with Brescio.

“The press release was the only information in the public domain connecting Brescio to organized crime,” investigators noted.

John DeLutro, also known as Baby John, the proprietor of Caffe Palermo, a pastry shop in New York City, is a reputed associate of the Gambino crime family (apparently investigators don't seem to know he's previously been identified as a second-generation Gambino member).

His criminal record includes 1986 convictions for cocaine distribution and conspiracy for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and a 2002 federal conviction for withholding information on a crime related to an attempt to purchase a large quantity of illicit drugs.

Joseph DeSimone, aka Joe Fudge, is also reputedly associated with organized crime. His criminal record included four convictions for driving under the influence between 1983 and 2007; a 1995 conviction for carrying a firearm without a license, carrying a firearm in a public place, and possessing instruments of a crime; a November 2000 conviction in for delivery or possession with intent to deliver controlled substances, and criminal conspiracy for which he was sentenced to two years and six months to five years in prison; a 2000 New Jersey conviction for possession with intent to deliver controlled substances and conspiracy for which he was sentenced to four years to be served concurrently to his sentence; a 1977 arrest for robbery and other crimes which were all dismissed.

DeSimone was linked to the Bruno/Scarfo crime family, and filings mention the testimony of a law enforcement official who knew that DeSimone’s street name was Joe Fudge. John Veasey, a former mob hitman, has said, that he assaulted a rival mobster named Joe Fudge. A law enforcement official also testified that he considered DeSimone’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute drugs as being related to organized crime.

DeSimone was an associate of Joseph Mazzolli, who at the time of a 1988 conviction, belonged to a crew run by his cousin who was tied to the Nicky Scarfo crime family...