sparks steak house

This is Sparks Steak House, located at 210 East 46th Street in Manhattan. It has been here since 1977, although the restaurant business operated at another location since 1966. Twenty-eight years ago today, on December 16, 1985, Mafia crime boss Paul Castellano was assassinated in a hail of gunfire pretty much right on this exact spot, under the awning at the front of the restaurant. A hit team of five gunmen blasted Castellano and a colleague as they were getting out of their car to go into the Sparks Steak House. The hit, one of the most brazen and spectacular in New York mob history, was ordered by John Gotti, who soon replaced Castellano as head of the Gambino crime family.

Castellano was a colorful Mafia figure. He lived in a 17-room mansion on Staten Island that was a copy of the White House. He carried on a lavish lifestyle, hanging around the house in expensive silk dressing gowns and slippers and having an affair with his live-in maid. Footsoldiers and businessmen in the Gambino organization thought he was petty and greedy. John Gotti particularly disliked him. Castellano supposedly had a rule against his people dealing drugs–though he frequently broke it himself–and Gotti, who saw himself as a future Mafia boss and drugs as a means of supporting his empire, resented Castellano’s control. He hatched a conspiracy among various Gambino members to whack Castellano. That Sparks Steak House ended up being the scene of the crime was largely a coincidence; Castellano had decided on a dinner meeting there that night, December 16.

Although throughout the 80s Gotti was known as the “Teflon Don” because no charges would stick to him, his luck finally ran out in December 1990. He was arrested that month for a host of charges, including the murder at Sparks Steak House. One of his fellow conspirators, Sammy Gravano, turned state’s evidence against him. On April 2, 1992, Gotti was convicted. He spent the rest of his life in prison but reportedly continued to run the Gambino organization from his jail cell. He died of cancer in June 2002.

Sparks Steak House continues on to this day. Zagats rated it the second best steak house in New York. Be sure you’ve got the green before you go in, though–a filet mignon entree at Sparks will run you $46.95.