From a NJ State Commission of Investigation report
Of all the licensed beverage establishments in the state, Casella’s Restaurant in Hoboken was perhaps the quintessential mob headquarters, meeting place and hangout. Casella’s is to the New Jersey arm of the Genovese crime family what the more famous Ravenite Social Club in New York’s Little Italy is to the Gambino/Gotti family. (Ironically, it was at Casella’s that Louis “Bobby” Manna discussed murdering John Gotti on behalf of the Genovese family.)
In testimony at the public hearing, FBI Special Agent Robert Lenehan described Casella’s as “a safe haven, a secure stronghold where (Manna) could meet his criminal associates and direct his criminal operations on behalf of the Genovese family.” Manna has now been convicted on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges and has been sentenced to 80 years in prison. At the time of his conviction, he was the consigliere (counselor) — the third ranking member — of the Genovese crime family, one of the most powerful families in the nation. Casella’s was owned by Martin “Motts” Casella, a longtime associate of Manna who was convicted with him and who has since died in federal prison.
Agent Lenehan further described Casella’s as a secure, virtually impregnable stronghold …. Nothing happened in Casella’s Restaurant without Marty’s knowledge; there were lookouts on the street and watchful eyes at the bar. Even certain bathrooms were off limits to patrons because they were used as secure meeting rooms for Bobby, Marty and their close associates. For years, Casella’s control and influence in the blocks surrounding Casella’s led FBI agents to conclude that the restaurant was virtually immune to electronic surveillance, our most valued investigative and prosecutive technique.
Presumably, those “watchful eyes” Lenehan referred to did not include Hoboken authorities, who continually renewed Martin Casella’s liquor license, despite his notorious and long association with Manna and the Genovese crew.
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In 1977, Manna was released from a state prison where he had been confined for five years for civil contempt for his refusal to answer questions regarding organized crime before this Commission. Shortly after his release, he began to reclaim control of the rackets he had lost while incarcerated. By 1980, Manna had become consigliere of the Genovese family. In the words of FBI Agent Lenehan, Manna held
one of the three most powerful positions in any LCN (La Cosa Nostra) family, responsible for advising the boss, controlling thecapos, one of the chain of command who could authorize murders and make the major decisions of the family — in the thin air of conclaves of bosses, Commission meetings, making and breaking bosses, the LCN boardroom.
And most of these decisions were made at Casella’s.
In his testimony, Lenehan was describing the period leading up to the investigation, trial and conviction of Manna, Casella and other figures in the Genovese crime family. Lenehan noted that Manna’s usual haunts were the street corners of Manhattan’s Little Italy, but in the late 1980s New York became a “swirling arena of law enforcement pressure” and Manna returned more often to the relatively safe haven of Hudson County and Casella’s.
In 1987, the FBI, despite the difficulties already described, succeeded in planting listening devices in Casella’s. Monitored together with the State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice and the IRS, the devices revealed the extent to which the restaurant was used by Manna and his associates. It had become evident, Lenehan testified, “that by early 1988 the legitimate business enterprise of Casella’s was virtually non-existent and it had effectively become little more than a typical mob social club.” He also likened the restaurant to “the board room of the New Jersey operations of the Genovese family.”
The Commission’s protected witness, a former northern New Jersey associate of the Bruno/Scarfo family, also testified about Casella’s:
Q. How did Bobby Manna use Casella’s Restaurant?
A. Well, it was a meeting place for anybody who wanted to see him or, you know, from other families or his own family, whatever.
Q. Did you ever have a sit-down at Casella’s Restaurant?
A. Yeah, I had a sit-down with a customer that they had taken from me by one of his controllers, Bobby Manna’s controllers, and went there with Freddie Salerno in a sit-down and they gave him back.
Q.Who was the subject of that?
A. Petey Cap. Petey Cap is with Bobby Manna and he’s in the gambling business, and he had stolen one of my runners.
Q. How was that dispute resolved?
A. It was ruled in my favor and Bobby told Petey Cap, make sure that he got back to me.
Q. Is Petey Cap, Petey Caporino?
Q. Do you know Alfred Salerno, Freddie Salerno?
Q. What position in what family was he?
A. Bruno/Scarfo family, he was a soldier.
Q. He was murdered in 1980. Do you know why?
A. Well, supposedly Freddie Salerno and Tony Bananas did (killed) Angelo Bruno, and also over a giant number package in Jersey City, two million dollars a day, numbers.
Q. How much a day?
A. Two million. . . .
Read the complete article.