The food isn't the main attraction at the CasaBlanca Italian restaurant in Maspeth, Queens, N.Y. You go for the Sicilian kitsch--the plastic flowers, the bronze-tinted mirrors, the piped-in Godfather theme. The walls bear snapshots of movie stars visiting the place, among them Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco), Hugh Grant (Mickey Blue Eyes) and James Caan (The Godfather). At a round table sit five men--sturdy, with slick hair and crumpled suits--having a good rude time as two other men in velour sweatsuits, drivers or bodyguards probably, sit at a subsidiary table. They turn quiet and suspicious when a new couple, strangers, is seated across the room, then return to their powwow. On the ceiling above the men are two metal boxes with rubber knobs--devices believed to have been installed to detect electronic bugs. It's just another night at (as the menu inscription proclaims) "CasaBlanca: Where You're Treated Like Family!"
Joseph Massino, the restaurant's operator, is an important part of the family. The Family. The Mafia; the Mob; La Cosa Nostra. The FBI says--and his defense lawyer does not contest--that Massino is head of the Bonanno clan, one of the Five Families of crime incorporated by Lucky Luciano in 1931. It was Massino who revived the Bonannos after the humiliation of the Donnie Brasco caper, in which FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone infiltrated the gang and spent five years posing as a hoodlum named Brasco and, with his court testimony, helped send 200 Mob men to prison. Already reeling from the Pizza Connection prosecutions (after a bust that exposed a giant heroin distribution racket run from pizza parlors), the Bonannos were thrown off the Five Families commission and left for dead. With brains and muscle, Massino restored the clan to its old strength. And "Big Joey" (his weight was once nearly 400 lbs.) did it on the street, not in the stir, where the other four bosses languish. In fact, Massino is the only New York Mafia boss who isn't doing hard time or awaiting sentencing for a conviction. That makes him the Last Don.
Massino, 61, has other legitimate businesses (Cafe Via Vento, in Maspeth) and properties (in Queens and Palm Coast, Fla.), but his favorite is the CasaBlanca. From that neighborhood ristorante, he has allegedly run an operation that, the feds assert, includes extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, narcotics and murder in a vast criminal empire whose tentacles stretch up into Canada and back to the Sicilian motherland. Investigators say he certified his power in 2000, when he convened a meeting of four of the Five Families, at--where else?--the CasaBlanca.