NEW YORK CITY — When it comes to the Mafia, there are only two things that really matter: money and food — and not necessarily in that order.
Hundreds of hours of secret FBI recordings in the so-called “Papa Smurf” investigation over the last two years show that culinary delights and the mob remain as intertwined as spaghetti and meatballs.
In scenes reminiscent of "The Sopranos” and “Goodfellas,” some 30 mobsters and their associates were caught knee deep in pasta, baby back ribs, hero sandwiches and cannoli while they allegedly rigged major waste hauling operations in New York and New Jersey.
"You're getting fat, Charlie,” one hood observed to a businessman who was wearing a wire for the FBI.
“Just f---ing being around you, I’m getting fat,” Charlie responded, according to the transcript.
He later turned the conversation to yet another gangster, and how poorly that guy looked.
“I was sittin’ there looking [at him and] I was like, wow,” Charlie said on the tape. “He looked horrible.”
His crony agreed.
“He needs to go on a diet and eat right but he’ll never do that,” Charlie observed.
And even when they got down to the serious business of deciding who to put the bite on to give them their business, they could not avoid talking food.
“I told this kid last night, you got nothing out here,” one hood said on another recording. “What do you gotta do? Grab a deli, grab a pizzeria. Who gives a f---.”
And by "grab," he meant shake down.
And when they weren’t chowing down or talking about eating, their daily patter was sprinkled with references to food.
“So if they’re getting $19 up there (for a yard of waste) and they’re making two bucks,” Charlie said.
“Everybody has gotta eat some butter on their toast,” his mob crony replied.
“I go with jelly,” Charlie laughed.
“Everybody wants the eggs and bacon (too),” the reputed gangster continued, before proudly adding, “I’m eating steak tomorrow. Steak and lobster. We’re going to LaMella’s (restaurant).”
In another conversation recorded by Charlie, food was not only the topic of conversation, it was discussed as a way to make more dough. One enterprising garbage hauler said his lot doubled as a food emporium during the summer.
“Once the weather gets nice, [I do] lunch time. And then I do a barbecue every Thursday night, I get four, five hundred people,” the unidentified carting businessman and reputed mob associate tells his pal.
“Do you really? Wow,” another unidentified gangster said on the tape. “You do pig?”
“No... ribs, chicken, corn on the cob...baby back ribs...we have a live band....people bring coolers, they bring wine...then they sit around, they listen to the music, sometimes we have a dance contest...and uh, the winner gets two free dinners,” the businessman explained.
“Wow, that’s nice,” the gangster said. “That’s a good thing to do on a Thursday night.”
He goes on to describe a rival who he's afraid will cut into his business. But if the guy plays nice, and if "he brings two trucks" and "picks everything up on Thursday, I'll give him a free barbecue."
Then Charlie cuts in: "There we go."