Celebrity chef David Ruggerio admits living in the mafia

He’s now serving his main course with the mob.

Former TV chef and acclaimed Big Apple restauranteur David Ruggerio has admitted living a secret life as a made man for the mafia – he was even implicated in a string of underworld murders that began when he was just 11 years old old was.

“I’ve lived two lives,” Ruggerio, 59, told Vanity Fair in an extraordinary interview in which he broke the omertà, the mob’s sacred code of silence.

During his acclaimed decade-long career in the kitchen — cooking for presidents and kings and even landing his own Food Network show — Ruggerio was also an active soldier for the Gambinos, he said.

Even as he enjoyed greater notoriety in the 1990s when he ran Manhattan restaurants La Caravelle, Maxim’s and Le Chantilly, Ruggerio said he delved deeper and deeper into his mob life — actively involved in heroin dealing, loan sharking, extortion and helped several infamous gangland murders.

Gambino family
In an interview with Vanity Fair, David Ruggerio admitted to being a soldier in the Gambino crime family.
New York Post

“I’ve done things when I’ve been pushed that I’m not proud of,” he told Mob Life Magazine, which he also plans to publish in a bio.

“But to really be on the road, you have to have a black heart. When you flip that switch, there can be no emotion. you have no pity You just have to do it,” he said.

“I didn’t want to be a criminal. I want you to understand. I loved being a chef,” he said.

David Ruggerio
David Ruggerio said he was involved in heroin dealing and even murder when he was part of the mafia.

His secret life includes his famous name – which hides the apparent mob connections of his birth name, Sabatino Antonino Gambino.

His Sicilian father, Saverio Erasmo Gambino, was a cousin of Carlo Gambino, the notorious “boss of bosses” who ruled the five New York Mafia families in the 1960s and ’70s, he revealed.

His father took him to Sicily in 1977 – just before he started high school – where he was made by Santo Inzerillo, brother of Palermo boss Totuccio Inzerillo, he said.

David Ruggerio
David Ruggerio had a TV show on the Food Network, cooked for presidents, and ran Manhattan restaurants La Caravelle, Maxim’s, and Le Chantilly.
New York Post

The ceremony included him getting a homemade tattoo of a fiery crucifix and the words Uomo de Fiducia, Italian for “man of trust,” on his right shoulder.

Ruggerio said he was already prepared for a life of crime after a series of tragedies as a youngster, including finding his little sister dead when he was four, being beaten by a stepfather – and then seeing how his pregnant mother died of an asthma attack when he was only five.

“I learned early on that I have a very cold side to me,” he told Vanity Fair of those painful early experiences.

Daniel Marino Gambino
Celebrity chef David Ruggerio said his final break with the mafia came when mafia boss Daniel Marino Gambino showed no sign of attending his son’s funeral.
Federal Evidence

“Did I want to be a gangster? Not a single day did I say to myself, ‘Yeah, I want to be a gangster when I grow up’… All I wanted to do was survive the next day.”

As a child, however, he said he was mentored as a gangster by “the most ruthless gangster I’ve ever seen,” Egidio “Ernie Boy” Onorato, who was nicknamed Ernie “M&M,” short for “Murder and Mayhem.” he said .

Ruggerio was just 11 when he saw Onorato beat Anthony Finn to death – who he said was a federal informant – who beat him to death, then shot him and stuffed cocaine in his mouth, near Bar Alley Cat on the Lower East Side.

David Ruggerio
Celebrity chef David Ruggerio’s birth name is Sabatino Antonino Gambino.
Elizabeth Lippmann

“We loaded the body in a car and drove it to Ave. and Ninth Street,” Ruggerio said.

He was even more implicated in other murders, he admitted, saying he helped Onorato torture and kill a 56-year-old Genovese and Colombo associate named Pasquale “Paddy Mac” Macchirole in 1978.

But the violence also came close to home, losing a girlfriend and his best friend, whose body he allegedly slept with the fish and dumped in the waters near Sheepshead Bay.

David Ruggerio
Celebrity chef David Ruggerio said he made the equivalent of $230,000 in drug dealing as a teenager.

Still, he reveled in the trappings of the criminal life and said he made $50,000 — the equivalent of about $230,000 today — when he was just a teenager, he told the magazine.

He also partied at his mentor’s Florida home, where “there was always a quarter or a half pound of Cokes stacked” on a coffee table.

“Ernie used to have girls over and they were all naked. For me, having sex at 14 and 15 wasn’t a big deal,” Ruggerio told Vanity Fair.

He soon made a name for himself in the kitchen too, becoming chef at La Caravelle by the age of 26 – a sideline he believes saved his life.

After mob boss Constantino Paul Castellano was gunned down outside the Sparks Steak House in midtown Manhattan, Ruggerio said he and his crew feared they would be John Gotti’s crew’s next heist.

But “most of the time smartasses talk about food,” Ruggerio said — and “Gotti loved Maxim’s,” he said of the hip restaurant he was tasked with reinventing for fashion mogul owner Pierre Cardin.

Celebrity chef David Ruggerio
Celebrity chef David Ruggerio confessed to witnessing and being involved in multiple murders for the Gambino crime family.
New York Post

Ruggerio ends up throwing a party for Gotti at Maxim’s 50th birthday, the crime boss’ last birthday as a free man before his arrest and death in prison.

His life as an enforcer eventually crossed over to his restaurant career, he said, admitting he gained ownership of Le Chantilly in 1995 by kidnapping his partner Camille Dulac and dumping him in a hole on a secluded beach in Breezy Point, Queens, was dug.

“He was on his knees begging for mercy,” he said, though Dulac denied it.

But ultimately it was credit card fraud that brought him down in July 1998,
Ruggerio pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny the next year. He got five years probation and paid $100,000 in damages.

David Ruggerio
Celebrity chef David Ruggerio said he lost everything after pleading guilty to credit card fraud.

Worse, he was taunted by his mob bosses and “the press just called me an idiot for screwing up my television career,” he said.

“I had five restaurants, 650 employees. And it was gone,” he recalled to Vanity Fair when all his comeback attempts were doomed. “It was gone overnight.”

But it wasn’t until his eldest son died from an overdose in June 2014 that he finally decided to break his gangland code of silence, feeling offended by the mafia boss.

“He did and drank a lot of OxyContin. He fell asleep and never woke up,” Ruggerio said of his son, who had also been an aspiring mobster.

But the ultimate wound came when Daniel Marino, his Brooklyn crew’s capo, showed no signs of breaking out of house arrest to attend the funeral, he said.

“When Danny didn’t come, I said, ‘Fuck that. I’m done,'” Ruggerio told Vanity Fair.

Now appearing further in a yet-to-be-published biography, he writes that “there was no need to embellish it; the truths were appalling enough.”

However, he insists he “will not cooperate against anyone”.

“That’s not why I did it,” he told Vanity Fair, saying he’ll also accept any backlash that comes his way, from his former mob cronies and authorities.

“I drop the chips where they can. After losing my son, I knew this had to end with me,” he said. Celebrity chef David Ruggerio admits living in the mafia


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