Umberto’s Clam House

Come here for clams or scallops, and don’t mention what happened here in 1972…

Location: 132 Mulberry Street, between Grand and Hester Streets in Little Italy

Umberto Ianniello, the original owner, recognizing the dearth of Italian seafood restaurants in Little Italy, decided to open his own establishment. The restaurant, with its unpretentious atmosphere and flavorful Italian-style cooking, opened in 1972. Even though the restaurant changed its physical location twice, the loving family tradition remains the same.

A couple of weeks after the restaurant opened, it became the scene of a movie-like mafia murder. Mobster Joseph Gallo, better known as Crazy Joe for his violent temper, came here for breakfast after the night of his 43rd birthday celebration. He simply wanted to enjoy his scungilli, calamari, and mussels, but that was not to be. A hitman appeared from a side door, approached Joseph Gallo, and fired. A mortally wounded Gallo staggered towards the door, fell through the glass, and somehow made it to the intersection of Hester and Mulberry Streets before he finally expired.

This story gave the new restaurant its dubious notoriety. In keeping with the notion that there is no such thing as bad publicity, Mr. Ianniello is constantly approached by producers who want to use the story on their shows.

Mr. Ianniello, the owner, says: “It’s something I do not want to be known for. It’s not a movie. Somebody lost their life. It’s not something that should be — I don’t want to use the word ‘celebrated’ — a stop on somebody’s tour.”

To the great honor of Mr. Ianniello, he wants to be known for his home-style cooking and atmosphere — not for the sensational murder.

From Umberto’s website: “Our unpretentious flair and professional service combined with the freshest, most authentic product possible… all at reasonable prices… keep our customers satisfied and coming back for more. So come in and enjoy NYC’s best.”

The “no-frills” restaurant is small, and the menu is very simple but eager to feed you; the restaurant’s host is enticing passers-by with free wine, sangria, and an occasional Sinatra tune performed a cappella right at your table.

Stop by when you have a chance: Umberto’s Clam House

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