February 27th, 2015 § 0 comments

The dictionary defines scungilli as “a large marine whelk or conch eaten as food.” Yes, this was a protein–in the form of salad or mixed with pasta smothered in super-hot red sauce–that was served in many old fashioned New York Italian restaurants during HG’s youth. The sea creature was pronounced “skoonjeel” and was delicious. Scungilli mostly disappeared from Manhattan menus and soon could be found in only two restaurants in Little Italy–traditional Vincent’s and upstart Umberto’s. In HG’s opinion the best fiery scungilli pasta dishes were found in a tiny Italian joint in Chinatown (corner Mott and Pell). HG ate there with two rugged Goodfellas who solicited HG’s promotional advice on how to improve sales at their legitimate front –a Staten Island furniture store. (Of course, scungilli was always available in Brooklyn, the Corona and Howard Beach neighborhoods of Queens and in the beloved Belmont Tavern, Belleville, New Jersey). Scungilli had its big moment of fame when gangster Crazy Joe Gallo was murdered at Umberto’s Clam House on April 7, 1972. (Scungilli, presumably, was on the table when he met his end.) Crime analysts have wondered why Gallo was dining at Umberto’s rather than the more traditional Vincent’s. HG has a theory: Joe was sentimental and his father, also a gangster, was named “Umberto.” Recently, a follower informed HG that there’s a very good Italian scungilli restaurant in Vero Beach, Florida. HG will keep it in mind if he ever ventures into Jeb Bush territory.

What started as 4 lbs of Scungilli in shells--not yet trimmed

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