On the night of June 28th, 1985, all eyes were on Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan. It was here that Paul Castellano, the boss of one of the most powerful mafia families in America, would be assassinated by rival mobsters. What happened that fateful night has been shrouded in mystery and intrigue for decades. And while many details about the hit remain unknown or debated, it’s still considered one of the most notorious murders to ever take place in New York City. In this blog post, we’ll explore what happened at Sparks Steak House that night and how it changed the Mafia landscape forever. From who ordered the hit to how it was carried out and what came after, come along as we examine one of the most infamous events in organized crime history.
The premiere of Steve McQueen’s ‘Wanted Dead or Alive,
The location of Sparks Steak House
Sparks Steak House is a steakhouse located at 210 East 46th Street between Second and Third Avenues in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. The restaurant is owned by the Magnola family.
The location of Sparks Steak House has been home to a number of different businesses over the years. In the early 1900s, it was a speakeasy known as the Little Club. In the 1920s, it was converted into a French restaurant called La Belle Epoque. In the 1930s, it became an Italian restaurant called Il Mulino. In the 1940s, it was transformed into an Irish bar called McSorley’s Old Ale House. And finally, in 1972, it became Sparks Steak House.
The location of Sparks Steak House has been the site of some major events in New York City history. On December 16, 1985, Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano was assassinated in front of the restaurant. On November 18, 1987, Mafia boss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano turned himself in at the FBI office inside Sparks Steak House after he was indicted for his role in 19 murders.
The events leading up to the hit
In the early evening of December 16, 1985, Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti were gunned down as they exited their black Lincoln town car in front of Sparks Steak House on East 46th Street in Manhattan. The execution-style murders were carried out by several unidentified assailants armed with automatic weapons.
The killings were widely seen as a power grab by John Gotti, who reportedly wanted to take over the Gambino family. Gotti had been overheard talking about his plans to kill Castellano in the months leading up to the hit.
On the day of the murders, Gotti was observed meeting with several other Gambino mobsters at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Ozone Park, Queens. He was then seen leaving with Frank DeCicco, one of his trusted lieutenants, and heading towards Manhattan.
At around 5:15 pm, Castellano and Bilotti were gunned down as they exited their car outside of Sparks Steak House. Witnesses reported seeing multiple men armed with automatic weapons firing at the two victims from close range. Both men were killed instantly.
The killers then fled the scene in a waiting car. No arrests have ever been made in connection with the murders.
The hit itself
In the early hours of December 16, 1985, Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped from a Lake Tahoe casino. His abductors demanded a $240,000 ransom from his father, and when they didn’t receive it, they killed him. His body was found in a remote area of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains on Christmas Eve.
The abduction and murder of Frank Sinatra Jr. was orchestrated by the Gambino crime family, and the man who pulled the trigger was John Gotti’s right-hand man, Sammy Gravano. The hit was carried out at the behest of Gambino boss Paul Castellano, who had ordered Sinatra Jr.’s death in retaliation for his father’s refusal to pay protection money to the mob.
The execution-style killing of Sinatra Jr. sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry and beyond. It also put a spotlight on the inner workings of the Gambino crime family, which was already under investigation by federal authorities.
Gravano turned state’s evidence against Gotti in 1992 and helped secure his conviction on multiple racketeering charges, including the murder of Frank Sinatra Jr.
The day after the hit on Frank Costello, the New York Times published an article detailing the event. The article described how Costello was sitting in a booth at Sparks Steak House when he was shot by Vincent Gigante. Gigante then fled the scene.
The article also quoted witnesses who described the incident. One witness said that he saw two men arguing with each other before one of them shot the other. Another witness said that he heard a loud bang and then saw a man running out of the restaurant.
The police were called to the scene and they found Costello lying on the floor with a gunshot wound to his head. He was rushed to the hospital but died soon after arriving.
The article caused a sensation and soon everyone was talking about the hit on Frank Costello. The media dubbed it “the crime of the century” and it remains one of the most famous mafia hits of all time.
What could have been done to prevent the hit?
In the early hours of December 16, 1985, two men entered the Sparks Steak House in New York City and gunned down Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano and his bodyguard Thomas Bilotti. The hit was carried out on the orders of John Gotti, who would later become the most powerful mobster in America.
There are a number of things that could have been done to prevent the hit. For one, Castellano could have taken better security measures. He was known to dine at Sparks Steak House regularly, and so it stands to reason that he should have had some sort of security detail with him. Additionally, Gotti could have been stopped before he had a chance to give the order to kill Castellano. At the time, Gotti was under investigation by the FBI and there were wiretaps on his phone. If these wiretaps had been monitored more closely, perhaps Gotti’s plans could have been thwarted.
Ultimately, however, it is impossible to say for certain what could have been done to prevent the hit. In retrospect, it seems clear that there were opportunities for intervention that were not taken advantage of. But we can only speculate as to what might have happened if things had been different.
Sparks Steak House has been a part of New York City’s history for decades. The infamous mob hit in 1985 only served to further entrench the steakhouse’s place in pop culture and criminal lore. While there have been many other notable events over the years, this particular one still stands out as a reminder of how powerful and influential organized crime can be. Sparks will continue to stand tall as one of the most iconic eateries in NYC, but its famous mafia hit will always remain part of its story.