Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé Knowles, frequent a favorite pizza place in Carroll Gardens. It’s called Lucali and it’s been an object of fetish for pie lovers since it opened to long waits in 2006. “It’s the best pizza I ever had in my entire life,” the rapper told The New York Times in 2009.
Such praise would not go uncompensated. The owner, Mark Iacono, a neighborhood native who learned the secret method of dough kneading from Di Fara’s Dom DeMarco, has been known to ensconce the couple in a secret service–level nook in his already tiny spot, on Henry Street between Carroll and Summit. They receive special treatment. Those displaced from their hard-won seats have tweeted and blogged about their troubles, the accounts often seething with outrage.
One such anecdote landed in the lap of a writer for the Huffington Post. “Something came up!” Mr. Iacono told blogger Jane McGivney, upon realizing who was on the way. “I’ve got a situation! I need this table. I’ll pay for your dinner.”
It came as a shock, then, to hear that Mr. Iacono had been stabbed in broad daylight by the serial ex-convict Benny Geritano just a few blocks away, bleeding onto the sidewalk from his thigh and head. And the Lucali owner fought back—he had a knife on his person as well. And then the news that these co-assailants were old friends, going at each other in a neighborhood where these days skirmishes are usually reserved for loud-yipping Labradors that cross leashes or strollers caught headlong in collision paths.
For the time being there’s visible damage. By all accounts there has been no Jay-Z, no Beyoncé. Mr. Iacono can walk only a block or so at a time. For now, he’s passed on the job of flipping pies to an assistant those close to the restaurant would only name as “Travis.” The place will shift hours or close on a whim. And the reputed mob connection threatens the chic appeal that attracted everyone from Josh Hartnett to Joel Klein. The story of the duel has overwhelmed Lucali’s once impenetrable lack of pretense, its focus on farm-based ingredients and Mr. Iacono’s unmatchable taste. Now, it’s owned by a man charged with attempted murder. So, then—is it still Lucali?
BEFORE STARTING MONTHS of late-night low-paying shifts at Lucali, Dominick “Black Dom” Dionisio racked up charges relating to a murder in the Colombo Wars of the 1990s, racketeering and heavy involvement in the drug trade surrounding Manhattan hotspot Limelight. Facing house arrest, he was placed under the watchful eye of Mr. Iacono, who kept his shady pal no further away than the next bucket of flour. He’s currently awaiting trial for the alleged misconduct and in the intervening period eluded house arrest by hanging out at the eatery owned by Mr. Iacono. (Calls to the lawyer James Froccaro, who works for Dionisio and will also be representing Mr. Iacono during his June trial for attempted murder, were not returned.) Prosecuting attorneys attempted to discredit Dionisio’s role in the workplace, but a verdict in 2009 sided with the account of parole officers who approved the position, and the slice pusher kept his $300-a-week gig as he waited out the time before his trial.
The scene that unfurled Friday, April 15, brought Dionisio’s ties to the Brooklyn crime underbelly back to the forefront. When Mr. Iacono and Geritano reached for their knives the violence came back out, and the man harboring a Colombo wise guy faced the man doing business with the Genovese hustlers.
Around 2:30 the lithe master of mozzarella and red sauce emerged from Joe’s Superette, on Smith Street, in a fiery entanglement with a loutish and hulking man, who soon brandished a knife. Geritano, witnesses said, sliced deep into Mr. Iacono’s neck, slashing up his back and legs as well. As a crowd grew on the otherwise sleepy stretch of Smith, Mr. Iacono fished out his knife too and carved up Geritano’s hands before Annette Angeloni, a desk girl at a local greeting card store, swung her car around, grabbed Benny Geritano, and sped out of the neighborhood. Mr. Iacono was left to bleed on the street.
“I didn’t do anything,” Geritano, who has 10 arrests and three prison terms on his record, said upon his arrest. “I’m the victim here.”
For those still in doubt, he stood up in the middle of his arraignment, lifted his shirt and poked his finger into the wounds.
They wouldn’t be the first to question his sincerity. Geritano beat a murder rap in 1991, and has wandered in and out of prison through a series of arrests for unlicensed weapons, harassment and general bedlam. A source within the local law crew referred to Geritano as a mad dog with mental problems.
His family ushered Benny into the business, having maintained close ties—amicable and otherwise—with the John Gotti clan. His stepfather, Shorty Mascuzzio, was a member of the Teflon Don’s inner circle and got gunned down on family business at a nightclub in 1997. His uncle, Preston, was in 1991 accused of aiding in the murder of Gotti’s driver (a charge on which he was never convicted). He was fatally pummeled with slick blades outside a Bay Ridge restaurant in 2004. At the time of the most recent stabbing, Benny Geritano was said to have been working with his half-brother Anthony Mascuzzio—the Son of Shorty—in a loan-shark scheme backed by a series of massive bank robberies in Brooklyn.
James Geritano, Benny’s uncle, runs a slightly less gruesome racket. He owns the Gowanus Yacht Club, that misnomer of a patio-flanked bar known for its dirt-cheap buckets of beer, and the adjacent Bagels by the Park, where his nephew was said to work before his relocation to Riker’s Island.
“I don’t know why anyone ever said that,” James Geritano told The Observer. We had walked into his bagel shop to find the owner back at a table, folded hands on the polo shirt that stretched over his gut.
“I really don’t want to talk about it. Benny was a great guy, but I really don’t want to talk about it.”
Follow Nate Freeman via RSS.