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Mafia Hit Suspected in Murder of Beloved Brooklyn Pizzeria Owner

Louis Barbati, owner of Spumoni Gardens, was found murdered at his home with $10,000 cash on him. The Gardens was also tied to a double murder involving a stolen sauce recipe.
Image by NettGal via Flickr

The mafia is suspected in the death of the owner of a Brooklyn pizzeria that was once a key site in a mob war.

Louis Barbati, 61, was in his Dyker Heights backyard at about 7 PM Thursday evening when a man described as in his 30s and wearing a hoodie fatally shot him five times, according to the New York Daily News. Barbati had $10,000 cash on him at the time of the shooting, which was not taken, the Daily News reported.


Barbati was the owner of L&B Spumoni Gardens, which was founded by his Italian immigrant grandfather in 1939. Fans of its famed Sicilian pizza and ices often put it on New York's "Best of" lists, reported The Post.

A recording on the restaurant's voice mail said no one was available to answer telephone calls.

Spumoni Garden's has seen it's share of mob activity. The New York Daily News reported in that in 2012,

Frank Guerra, a reputed Columbo crime family associate whose ex-wife was a part owner of the pizzeria, was acquitted of a double murder of former underboss Joseph Scopo and Staten Island club owner Michael Devine, as well as extortion of a former Spumoni employee — who he accused of lifting L&B's secret sauce recipe. Guerra is currently serving time for dealing Oxycontin.

Many people think of the mafia as something that was eradicated thanks to intense law enforcement efforts including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970. But according to James Wedick, an FBI expert and 34-year veteran of the bureau, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 gave the mafia a chance to regroup and build in the United States. " For almost 10 years, there wasn't a lot [of focus on] the mafia. What you saw were career agents and investigators migrated out of organized crime to fight terrorism."

There's been a small shift back to policing organized crime in recent years. In 2011, an FBI-led investigation resulted in the arrests of more than 100 organized crime figures.

"That showed that the Bureau and other law enforcement agencies are back on it, bringing the resources back into [fighting organized crime]," said Wedick of that and other high-profile crackdowns. "It was a way for the Department of Justice to say 'We haven't forgotten you guys.'"

There are still five major crime families in New York and many have familial ties back to key figures from decades past, though their cash flows have changed. In past years the mafia made money through distribution of narcotics, prostitution and similar crimes. Today's mafia members operate bogus health clinics and other illegal businesses.

"The crime families are still problematic. They are dangerous. They kill people. They threaten people," he said. "As long as there is gold on this planet they fill find a way to take it."