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History’s Most Notorious Gangsters' Favorite Recipes

Updated July 1, 2019 14k votes 3.9k voters 170.8k views10 items

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Thanks to notable films like The Godfather and Goodfellas, Italian-American life now harbors at least two major stereotypes: the expectation of delicious home cooking and the assumption of Mafia connections. The truth is, everyone enjoys good food, and famous gangsters from around the world are no exception. From the mean streets of 1940s Los Angeles to the end credits of Martin Scorsese's best mafia movies, delectable recipes have often tempted America's most notorious underworld bosses.

Over the decades, some of these recipes have filtered out to the public for everyone to enjoy. If you've ever thought, "What did Al Capone eat?" you can now find out for yourself. A number of classic, delicious gangster recipes are free to cook up in your home kitchen, and the best restaurants visited most frequently by notorious families have set the standard for classic dining.

  • 1

    Anthony Graziano: Penne Alla Vodka

    Anthony Graziano was the center of an infamous Staten Island underworld family who served the Bonanno family for decades. Working his way up to consigliere, Graziano was famous for his tight-lipped nature and loyalty in the face of multiple convictions.

    His daughters, on the other hand, have made their career talking openly on their show Mob Wives. They have even published a family cookbook and shared their recipe for penne alla vodka on The Today Show.

    The Grazianos' Penne Alla Vodka:

    1 lb. penne

    3 tbsp. olive oil

    1 large onion, chopped

    Salt and pepper

    1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

    2 (28 oz.) cans San Marzano crushed tomatoes

    1/4 cup of vodka

    1/2 cup heavy cream

    1 tbsp. butter

    1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    All the cooking information is on the Today website.

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  • 2

    Al Capone: Secret Spaghetti Recipe

    Since 2010, Capone's family has become legally involved in the distribution of Al Capone's famous secret spaghetti sauce. Capone was notorious for a lot of shenanigans, but he was also known by his family and friends for being passionate about Italian cooking. Accordingly, he guarded a number of his favorite recipes closely.

    Capone's famous spaghetti sauce is still pulling punches decades after the end of his reign.

    Al Capone's Secret Spaghetti Recipe

    2 tsp. salt

    1 tbsp. vegetable oil

    1 cup parsley leaves

    3/4 cup walnut pieces

    2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

    1 lb. fresh or dried spaghetti

    2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Salt and freshly ground pepper

    1/2 cup chopped or sliced tomato for garnish

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  • 3

    Mickey Cohen: Formosa Café's Sticky Ribs

    The swanky Formosa Café in Los Angeles has unclear origins, but its train car interior and Hollywood celebrity clientele have long made it a favorite. Mickey Cohen and his hired muscle Johnny Stompanato also enjoyed meals at Formosa frequently in the late 1940s and early '50s.

    By then, Formosa was serving Cantonese comfort food cooked up by chef Lem Quon. Quon's stepson Vince Jung eventually took over the restaurant and provided the recipe for Formosa's classic sticky ribs.

    Formosa's Sticky Ribs:

    2 tbsp. kosher salt

    2 tbsp. cracked black pepper

    1 tbsp. cinnamon

    1 rack baby back ribs

    2 tsp. peanut or vegetable oil

    2 tbsp. garlic, chopped

    1/2 cup orange juice

    1/4 cup sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)

    3 tbsp. sweet chili sauce

    1 tsp. black sesame seeds, for garnish

    1 scallion, chopped, for garnish

    Find out how to cook the ribs at the Cooking Channel's website.

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  • Photo: United States Department of Justice / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Mickey Cohen: Cole's French Dip Sandwich

    Mickey Cohen was among the most powerful bosses in Los Angeles in the '40s. He made alliances with Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel before inheriting the LA underworld for himself. Cohen was said to hold court daily at Cole's, and had little patience for anyone who triggered his short temper, occasionally taking them into an adjoining storage room.

    Like everyone at Cole's, Cohen scarfed down their famous French dip sandwiches. While the recipe isn't public, they do hint that their au jus is "basically a bone broth" and cooks two or three days before being served.

    What's Cooking America provides a recipe that is probably similar to Cole's secret one, allowing curious chefs to get close to the real thing. 

    Cole's French Dip Sandwiches:

    French Dip Sandwich:

    1 (4-lb.) beef rib eye, sirloin, or tenderloin roast

    1/2 cup black pepper, coarsely ground

    8 French rolls

    Dipping Sauce Ingredients:

    Beef juices from cooking pan

    1 (10.5 oz.) can beef stock or beef broth

    1/2 cup water

    Salt and pepper to taste

    The step-by-step recipe is available at the What's Cooking America website.

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