Celebrity chef confesses to secret life as NYC mafia foot soldier, part of Gambino family who took part in murders and torture

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David Ruggerio, 59, a celebrity chef who ruled the New York City restaurant scene in the 80s and 90s, is now admitting to being a foot soldier for the mafia at one point in his famous career and was part of the Gambino crime family, taking part in murders and torture.

The former Food Network star ran the kitchens of top Manhattan restaurants La Caravelle, Maxim’s, and Le Chantilly. He made his shocking admission in an interview with Vanity Fair that came out on Thursday.

Ruggerio dropped out of sight after he was arrested in 1998 for credit card fraud, which to this day he denies. He wound up losing his restaurants, his TV deal, and drifted into obscurity, quietly operating a doughnut shop and other small ventures.

His confessed crimes not only included murder and torture, but heroin dealing, truck hijackings, loan-sharking, bookmaking, and extortion as well.

The chef claims to be directly related to the “boss of bosses,” Carlo Gambino. Somehow, the FBI was not aware of any of this even after he hosted the “Teflon Don” John Gotti’s 50th birthday party in Maxim’s elegant dining room.

He broke the mob’s code of silence because he now regrets his life of crime and has trouble sleeping because of it.

“I wouldn’t have wished my life on anyone. I hate to sleep. The nights are very long and filled with nightmares,” he stated. “I didn’t want to be a criminal. I want you to understand that. I loved being a chef.”

He was born in Brooklyn in 1962 and has familial ties to the Gambino family. He was born Sabatino Antonino Gambino and his Sicilian-born father Saverio Gambino was the cousin of mob boss Carlo Gambino.

“I was living two lives,” Ruggerio admitted during the interview.

His father took him to Sicily in 1977 to become a “made man.” The ceremony took place in the basement of a café in Castellammare del Golfo, his family’s ancestral village. A fiery cross was tattooed on his shoulder along with the words Uomo de Fiducia, Italian for “man of trust.”

Ruggerio copped to several mob murders that he took part in while speaking with Vanity Fair.

In 1978, he allegedly helped Gambino capo Egidio “Ernie Boy” Onorato torture and kill a man who was a Genovese and Colombo associate.

In 1980, he claims to have watched Onoato beat his friend Joey “Skeetch” Cannizzaro with a lead pipe because he had circumcised himself to make his Jewish girlfriend happy and was wearing his severed foreskin on a gold chain around his neck.

“Ernie picked up the lead pipe and he went berserk. He beat this kid to the point where you couldn’t recognize him anymore. Ernie whirled around and I thought, I’m getting killed next,” Ruggerio recounted.

“He put the pipe an inch from my face. It was dripping blood. He says, ‘You brought this f***ing guy around! He’s your f***ing problem. So we started wrapping Skeetch’s body in an old rug,” he recalled.

“That’s when I heard Skeetch moaning. Turns out he was alive,” Ruggerio stated, then admitted that he weighed Cannizzaro’s body down with lead window sashes and dumped him in the waters near Sheepshead Bay.

Ruggerio left that crew and went to work for Carmine Lombardozzi, also known as the “King of Wall Street.” Since everyone in the crew had to hold down legitimate jobs, Ruggerio wound up getting one in the kitchen at La Caravelle, which was then one of the top French restaurants in the city.

“I would often go with guys to small stock brokerages that Carmine had and lean on brokers,” the aspiring chef remarked.

He became an executive chef at La Caravelle at the age of 26. He would go on to run the kitchens of French fashion designer Pierre Cardin’s New York outpost of Maxim’s and Le Chantilly. He eventually became part-owner with Gambino capo Daniel Marino.

When Ruggerio’s son died in 2014 of a drug overdose and his longtime mafia partner Marino declined to attend the funeral service, the chef had had enough of the mafia life.

“When Danny didn’t come, that’s when I said, ‘F*** this. I’m done,” he commented.

“I did things when I was pushed that I’m not proud of,” he admitted. “But to really, truly be in the streets, you gotta have a black heart. When you turn that switch, there can be no emotion. You have no pity. You gotta just do it.”

Ruggerio is now working on his memoir.


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