CROONERS

Re-created mob dining

We kill the lights and wait 10 minutes. Cars parked everywhere, but no outside response. We get out. Amble toward the door. Screeching tires from behind us. Whip around. Reach into breast pockets. It's just some pimple-faced kid using South Coast Plaza's parking lot for a test track.

Duck into Maggiano's. Late. Packed. As usual. Breeze past slobs crowding around the check-in. Evil eyes. Tough shit. Our pal Mickey came earlier. Grabbed us a table. Our regular table.

Enter dining room. Loud. Happy chatter drowns out piped-in Sinatra. Pictures on the wall. Celebrities. Wise guys. A whole bunch of nobodies.

Mingle, look:

Newsmen. Angels execs. Mayor smiling at two suits in the corner. Wonder if he knows one of those suits is connected. No shit, Sherlock.

Stop dead in tracks. Table filled with hot dames. One with gams up to here. She locks onto my stare. Cracks half a smile. I smile back. She turns her head.

De-nied!

Thank Mickey and associates for holding our seats. They told the waiter we were in the can. Drink girl shows up. About fucking time. Order a bottle of their best Chianti, a couple of G&Ts, a whiskey—neat—then ask if anyone else is drinking tonight. Hoots, hollers and palms slamming the table all around. Drink girl confused, like she just smelled a fart. She finally realizes the order was for everyone. Scampers off shaking her head. Nice ass, though.

Soon, wine glasses clanging. Forks stabbing plates piled high with mostaccioli. The gnocchi's got me hooked. Bad. More addictive than smack. The chicken cattiatore's so tender they must have slaves in the back that do nothing but beat birds with metal hammers all day. We could use some guys like that. The ravioli will send you to the confessional. And the sauces! Damn if they ain't like Mama's.

Mama.

Haven't called Mama since Tuesday.

Tears well up.

Joey sees I'm choking up.

Joey wonders if I'm going soft.

Mickey sees Joey seeing me choking up.

Mickey pipes in. He cracks the one about the Jew, the Catholic and the Polack meeting St. Peter. That one always slays me. Everybody's on the floor.

I owe ya, Mick. I owe ya.

Dino's crooning about the moon hitting our eye like a big pizza pie. Suddenly, BANG! A hundred guys—like they've rehearsed it with Busby Berkeley—all duck under their tables and reach into their breast pockets at once.

Greasy-fingered busboy fumbled some platters. We'll break his legs later.

Maggiano's is aces.

Why?

Because I say so.

Okay, if you must know, Maggiano's got class—'cept for the times they forget to erase the chalk outlines on the floor.

(with apologies to James Ellroy)

 
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