As an Italian American, I get a little uncomfortable when I sense the strange ethnic pride that some Italians take in things Mafioso. Hey, I'm a big fan of Sopranos and Sinatra, though I can't help but feel it strange to admire criminal behavior (even if, historically, the cosa nostra stepped in to protect folks who were ignored or worse by regular law enforcement; it's sometimes seems easy to forget that these original gangsters made a living on protection, prostitution and murder).
That's all by way of setting up an experience I had last week at Alpine Foods on North Avenue in Elmwood Park. I've had very good Italian subs from this place, but that day I was poking around on the shelves and found a pasta sauce: Giancana brand marinara. On the label is a picture of Sam "Momo" Giancana and the tagline is "A big hit with all the mob."?
Giancana, of course, was a syndicate boss, co-conspirator in various Kill Fidel and possibly Kill Kennedy plots, who got whacked in his basement, grilling sausages, a few blocks from Alpine Foods. Further north on 7419 Irving Park Road, there's Caponie's Trattoria ("the pizza you can't refuse) named, of course, after Scarface Al, another local boy who made it big and bad.
No doubt, Hollywood glamour burnishes mafia imagery, but is it not strange to sell a pasta sauce by trading on the name of someone who was described in a police report as "a snarling, sarcastic, ill-tempered sadistic psychopath"?" I mean, you don't see Vlad the Impaler brand Paprika, Joseph Stalin borscht, or Pol Pot-stickers.
My wife, Carolyn, and I went to York High School in Elmhurst with kids who had last names like Aiuppa, Cerone, and Giancana. We were friends with some of these kids, and I do not mean to slam the name of Giancana or any of the others (I'm not stupid). It just seems strange to trade on the mob connection. My guess is that many members of all those families must feel similarly uncomfortable when they see bottles of Giancana gravy in a jar.
7538 W North Ave, Elmwood Park
Answer Book 2018
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