By Mike Hudson
Bill Gotti Sr. was, and remains, a remarkable man. He never wanted to go into the family business. His brother, legendary mob kingpin John Gotti, and his other siblings, Peter, Richard, Gene and Vincent followed John Gotti into what they call “the life.”
Bill went his own way. He opened a delicatessen in Brooklyn, where he served up a unique menu of Jewish and Italian food. Reuben sandwiches and blintzes took their place alongside manicotti, lasagna and other red gravy specials to create a unique dining experience.
Bill Gotti took a different path than his late brother John
In the early 1970s, as the activities of his brothers began attracting more attention – from both the media and law enforcement – Bill decided he had to bust a move.
Los Angeles, California, is what is known – in mafia parlance – as a “free city.” That is, no mafia family governs it, and that is why mobsters — from Cleveland’s Jimmy “the Weasel” Fratianno to Boston’s Whitey Bulger and even Buffalo’s own Bobby Panararo and Steve Cino — have all taken refuge in the City of Angels in recent years.
But Bill Gotti Sr. was never a mobster. He’s a great cook who could make melt in your mouth matzo balls with a side of linguini.
When he went west in the early 1970s, he brought his son, Bill Jr., with him. He got the lay of the land working at Barney Greengrass, in Beverly Hills at the foot of Lauren Canyon, while shopping for his own place. Finally he found it, and opened the Victor’s Square restaurant in West Hollywood.
The hole in the wall restaurant, with its appealing menu of Italian and Jewish staples was an instant success. The actors, directors and stage hands who knew New York food came in droves.
Billy Jr. saw all this and learned. From a waiter, to a cook and then the chef and manager, he never took his eye off the ball. And he eventually went his dad one further in altruism, founding the homeless advocacy group Neighborhood Lifeline.
” I started Neighborhood-Lifeline’s because I know homelessness intimately. Through business foreclosure I found myself out on the streets in 2012. I have seen and felt the loss of dignity and hope, and a vision to create better aid for the homeless started to grow,” Gotti said. “But seeing the innovative ways others were helping the homeless around the nation inspired me towards a new goal. Five years later here we are, trying to make that dream come true – not for me, but for everyone who is still out on the streets, struggling every day. ”
The late John Gotti
Gotti’s organization has provided mobile showers for the homeless to bathe and food trucks where they can enjoy meals of a somewhat higher caliber than the bologna sandwich fare generally offered by traditional homeless providers.
“Our hope is that we can ease the daily struggle, restore dignity, revive hope and make essential help much more accessible for homeless people everywhere,” Gotti said.
Into each life a little rain must fall, they say, but over the past few weeks, it’s been a deluge for Bill Gotti Jr. First, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was to have begun a plan of treatment this past week. But a few nights ago, while strolling down Los Feliz Boulevard in the fashionable Atwater Village section of East Los Angeles, he was set upon by three thugs and beaten so savagely he was hospitalized.
No motive for the vicious attack has been established. Was it because he is a member of the family whose name is associated with of one of America’s most notorious organized crime outfits? Or had some mentally unstable victims of homelessness decided that, for whatever reason, that Gotti was their enemy rather than a friend?
The questions remain to be answered.
In the meantime, Gotti lies in a hospital bed, bleeding internally from a spleen injury suffered in the assault and facing the prospect of far more serious health issues to come.
New York Congressman Peter King, a Republican, and California Congressman Adam Schiff have taken an interest in the case and are working across the aisle to pressure local officials into running down Gotti’s assailants.
For his own part, Gotti remains positive and upbeat.
“Love saves the day every time,” he says.