Restaurant with Roaring '20s gangster theme is often mobbed

January 11, 1994|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

You might think people would be reluctant to chance an Italian restaurant decorated in Roaring '20s gangster motif and run by a Sicilian who trades on his nickname -- Lucky Luciano. But you'd be wrong.

For 15 years, Lucky Luciano's Ristorante in Crofton has been packing them in, serving up Funghi Ripieni, Scampi Con Salsa D'Aragosta and cappuccino that is personally brewed and served by the owner, "Lucky" Luciano DiSalvo.

When he sets the steaming cup of froth on the table, he calls out his trademark line, "Is everybody happy here?" And usually, everybody answers, "Yes!"

It was Mr. DiSalvo's wife, Bonnie, who came up with the name and chose the decor. She even had servers dress in gangster costumes when the place first opened. Her husband, she says, had never heard of the mobster who died in 1962.

Some of the customers ask about the name and mob connection, and others have said they were afraid to bring their children, Mrs. DiSalvo says. "But we're as straight as they come. My husband's just a little old dishwasher from Italy."

Mr. DiSalvo immigrated to the United States in 1964 with dreams of opening his own restaurant. He worked as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant in College Park, where he met Bonnie, who was working there as a waitress.

Mrs. DiSalvo recalls that he "always used to say that someday he wanted to own a pizzeria.

"I admit I didn't really think we'd have a chance of making it," she added.

But the DiSalvos got their chance in 1970 when they discovered an old Italian restaurant in Bowie about to close. Mr. DiSalvo and his sister, Rosa, bought the property and a few months later opened Rosa's Pizzeria. It was mobbed.

"When people started lining up, then I knew we were a success," said Mr. DiSalvo.

By 1973, they opened their own pizzeria in the Priest Bridge Shopping center on Defense Highway with the name Mrs. DiSalvo dreamed up. It went so well, that six years later they added a dining room and expanded the menu.

Mr. DiSalvo says he uses some of the same recipes his mother used when she cooked for Italian barons and princes. "She was a grand cook," he says.

Now, the couple is planning another expansion, adding a lounge and party facility next door to their restaurant and pizzeria. Mr. DiSalvo said he will call it Bonnie and Clydes.

Meanwhile, they say they are pouring all their energy into the restaurant. Lucky Luciano's, says Mr. DiSalvo, is "my life, my baby and my ambition."

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