Last Great Mafia Social Club Gets Clipped
Genteel libations replace Genovese family’s NYC HQ
APRIL 18--After a life filled with murder plots, vig collection, extortion schemes, rigged card games, and other assorted organized crime business, the last great Mafia social club has died.
The Triangle Social Club, long the de facto headquarters of the Genovese crime family, recently vacated its storefront at 208 Sullivan Street, a six-story tenement in New York’s Greenwich Village. The Triangle, which was moribund for years, has been replaced by Sullivan Street Tea & Spice Company, which opened about a month ago.
As seen in the photos at right (click to enlarge), gone are the blacked out windows that shielded Vincent “Chin” Gigante (seen at left) and his cohorts from the view of nosy passers-by and law enforcement agents. Now the space is filled with light, and visitors can admire the storefront’s tin ceiling, its beautiful mosaic-tile floor, and an original mural on its northern wall.
Where “Baldy Dom,” “Quiet Dom,” Dom the Sailor,” and “Fat Dom” used to spend their evenings playing cards and plotting, customers can now purchase spices, potted herbs, teas like Gyokuro and Wuyi, bath salts, and handmade soaps. The dry goods store was opened by the owners of Grounded, an organic coffee and tea shop in the West Village.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, the Triangle was the hangout of Gigante (who died in prison in 2005) and wiseguys affiliated with the Genovese family’s Greenwich Village crew. The area had historically been the power center of the mob clan, and family titans like Vito Genovese, Thomas Eboli, and Anthony Strollo could often be seen in the neighborhood. As a result, law enforcement surveillance of the Triangle and its inhabitants was a frequent occurrence.
The first electronic surveillance targeting the Triangle, records show, came in October 1966, when a New York State Supreme Court judge approved the bugging of the club’s telephone (GR 5-9665). The number was listed to the Joseph Schippini Restaurant, which apparently was a prior tenant at 208 Sullivan Street. Investigators wanted to monitor the Triangle in connection with an investigation of “narcotics, gambling, usury, extortion, coercion, and assault offenses” committed by Gigante and three of his brothers.
The 1966 wiretap, though, yielded nothing of value during the 60 days detectives monitored calls. Future attempts to bug the club--by both the NYPD and FBI--also delivered disappointing results. Gigante and Co. assumed their storefront was always bugged, and acted accordingly.
In advance of one surveillance attempt, FBI agents drew up a rough floor plan of the Triangle showing the table “used primarily” by Gigante, the location of two pinball machines, and the spot where a police scanner sat.
As recounted by Peter Savino, a Genovese associate who became an FBI informant, he once arrived at the Triangle to discuss a labor racketeering scheme with Gigante. But instead of talking in the storefront’s main room, he accompanied Gigante into the club’s bathroom. Inside, the Genovese boss “turned on all the water faucets,” according to an FBI report. Gigante then whispered into Savino’s ear.
On another occasion, Savino was summoned to the Triangle to discuss a possible mob hit. Once inside the club, he was escorted out a side door that led into the hallway of the apartment building. There, on a first-floor landing, Gigante and Bobby Manna, the Genovese consigliere, questioned Savino about whether he could get close enough to the intended murder victim to “take him.”
While the FBI failed to pick up anything useful from its Triangle bugs, agents monitoring the home phone of Federico “Fritzy” Giovanelli frequently heard the Genovese soldier joking with fellow gangster Frank “Frankie California” Condo about the dingy club. Condo would often gripe about having to stay in the chilly Triangle until nearly dawn because Gigante wanted company. He also complained that Gigante wanted to open the Triangle at 7 AM each day. “Wants to keep the fuckin’ joint night and day, night and day,” Condo said of the crime boss, who was notorious for cheating during card games at the club.
In one wiretapped conversation, Giovanelli laughed about a prank he had pulled days earlier at the Triangle. The mobster had gone to the club with a can of “fart spray,” which he released in the club. The odor, Giovanelli noted, “smells like a fuckin' broccoli fart! Broccoli shit.” His gag achieved the desired result, as Condo complained that the “fart spray” left him gasping for breath. Giovanelli recalled that Genovese soldier Ciro Perrotta, a Triangle regular, was also repulsed by the odor, and demanded to know, "Who the fuck shit?"
The wiretapped “fart spray” chat can be heard below (and a transcript can be found on wmob.com, our sister site).