Monday, July 8, 2024

Do You Remember GIAMBONES




And Two Asscoiates Leaves GIAMBONE'S

After a Classic Italian-American Restaurant Meal

of Baked Clams, Pasta, Sausage & Veal & Peppers

ALTHOUGH legal arguments have long echoed 
down the austere halls of the Criminal Court building 
on Centre Street, many spirited lawyerly discussions 
also occurred a few blocks east, in a dim, shoebox-sized 
Italian restaurant named Giambone. Now, as workers
at Centre Street and other nearby courthouses dig into 
their fall workload, they are discovering that this 
neighborhood fixture is gone.
Located on a narrow stretch of Mulberry Street 
two blocks south of Canal, Giambone, a virtual 
clubhouse for lawyers, judges, cops and defendants 
with a history as rich as its clam sauce, closed its 
doors in June. It was a victim of 9/11 and the 
sluggish economy, which all but eliminated the 
evening dinner crowd.
Originally housed in a marble-floored basement, 
which served it well during Prohibition, the restaurant 
was opened in 1914 by a strapping fellow named 
Italo Susi, who went by the nickname Giambone. 
In 1935, after the upstairs tenant, a Western Union 
office, left, Italo moved his eatery aboveground and, 
along with his son Tony, built the place into a bustling, neighborhood joint.
Within a stone's throw of various courthouses, Giambone 
was a natural choice for people who worked at the 
courthouse or merely visited it from time to time, 
like the mobster John Gotti. Tony Susi, now 82, 
still remembers his introduction to the once-Teflon don.
''The goons came over and said, 'Would you accept 
John Gotti?' I said, 'Of course.' Then they said, 'Would 
you wait on him personally?' So I waited on him. We 
got along pretty well, too. I spoke to him in Italian.'' 
Mr. Gotti ordered the calamari and left a $125 tip.
Continue reading the main story
Over the years, other celebrities passed through, 
including the comedian Pat Cooper, who wanted to kiss 
Mr. Susi upon tasting his Linguine alla Sinatra , a house specialty, and John F. Kennedy Jr., who nursed his wounds 
at Giambone after failing the bar exam for the second time.
But the true lure of Giambone remained its homey 
ambiance. The décor -- rickety tables, taxidermied fish 
on the wall -- was as unfashionable as your grandfather's basement, and nearly as dusty. The menu was varied 
but never fancy. And Mr. Susi, by all accounts a gracious 
host, presided over a cast of regulars that included a fellow named Louie Beans, a struggling lounge singer named 
Detie Baxter, and Louis Martine, a big, garrulous 
Asked about the many stunts he pulled at Giambone, Mr. Martine, a retired lawyer, fondly recalled the sweltering 
day he sent two colleagues on a goose chase in search of a Chinese tailor rumored to sell cheap suits. ''By the time 
the guys got back, they were walking swimming pools,'' 
he said with a laugh. ''They were mad as hell.''
There is another reason to mourn Giambone. Except for 
a half-Italian, half-Chinese place next door, it was the 
last Italian restaurant on Mulberry Street below Canal.
Next month the space will reopen as a Chinese furniture 
store, furthering the Asian dominance of an area that, 
according to Mr. Susi, once housed seven Italian restaurants.
Mr. Susi retired in 1990, selling the restaurant to a 
man named Joseph Elias. Bob Jenny, a spokesman 
for New York City Management, the owner of the 
building, said that Mr. Elias informed the company 
last spring that he was closing the struggling business. 
Mr. Elias could not be reached for comment.
For its many former customers, the bottom line is that the restaurant will be missed. ''It's left a hole in the neighbor-
hood,''' said Robert M. Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney and a longtime regular. ''Now, we go to Odeon or Forlini's.''