This place on Lefferts Avenue in Queens, New York–now a Caribbean restaurant–used to be a working-class watering hole called “Robert’s Lounge,” which has a rather infamous place in the history of organized crime in America. It was here, in the 1970s, that Lucchese crime family figures Paul Vario and Jimmy “The Gent” Burke used to plot and conduct various organized crime operations, including the infamous December 1978 robbery of the Lufthansa airline terminal at JFK Airport (which is not far away), and numerous bloody murders.
If this sounds familiar, it should. The 1990 Martin Scorsese film GoodFellas, which is based on a memoir by Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill (who turned state’s evidence against Paul Vario in 1980), extensively portrays various events occurring at Robert’s Lounge. Several Mafia victims were buried on the premises here, including Tommy DeSimone (the Joe Pesci character from GoodFellas–“What’s so funny about me?”) and Martin Krugman (who appears as “Morrie” in the film). Their bones were discovered here after an FBI dig in 1980.
Michael “Spider” Gianco was also buried here. About 1971, “Spider” was murdered in the basement of Robert’s Lounge, most likely by accident. This murder is depicted in one of the most memorable scenes from GoodFellas. Michael Imperioli portrays Spider; in real life Imperioli became a film producer, and produced the Spike Lee film Summer of Sam. Here is a clip of the scene from GoodFellas.
I do not know when Robert’s Lounge changed ownership. Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke were arrested in 1980. Both died in prison, in 1988 and 1996, respectively. Henry Hill went into the Witness Protection Program. He died in June 2012.
Today this place is occupied by La Caribena, which is a Jamaican restaurant. If you’re interested, their menu is here. I bet the Lobster Tail Caribena is good.