There aren’t many cookbooks that preface a recipe with, “When I was in prison and witness protection, I had a lot of time on my hands, and I enjoyed reading … about the legend of pizza.”
But then there haven’t been many cookbook authors like the late mobster Frank Cullotta.
“Frank Cullotta’s Greatest Kitchen Hits: A Gangster’s Cookbook” (Wild Blue Press, $17) was published late last year, co-authored with Dennis N. Griffin, who produced three other books with Cullotta.
“I am probably best known for my exploits as an associate of the Chicago Outfit and my role as Tony Spilotro’s street lieutenant in Las Vegas” during the mob’s heyday here in the ’70s and ’80s, Cullotta’s introduction says. “However, I have many other interests. Among them is my love of cooking.”
Far from being secretive about his past, Cullotta reveled in it.
“He did a driving tour of mob sites, and he would stop at the museum and bring his folks there. It was only natural for me to spend some time with him, learning more about his background and some of the stories we’re all familiar with,” said Geoff Schumacher, vice president of exhibits and programs at the Mob Museum. “When we weren’t talking about the history of the mob, he loved to talk about cars and food.”
Cullotta, who died last August, owned Upper Crust Pizza at Maryland Parkway and Flamingo Road. The restaurant’s recipe for pizza dough is in his cookbook, along with the pizzeria’s stuffed pies. Cullotta’s favorite recipes, and those from family members such as his mother, Mama Josie, are included. Italian standards such as meatballs, pasta sauce and cavatelli also made the cut, along with the Italian grilled cheese sandwich his mother made him after fights with childhood friends — including Spilotro.