TV Club

Cracker Barrel Was John Gotti’s Favorite Restaurant

Dear Jerries:

I can’t believe that a man like Jerry Shargel, who designs monthslong defenses of alleged mobsters and caps them off with spellbinding summations that are also not inconsequentially short, is criticizing The Sopranos for taking a whole three episodes to craft a narrative arc. Yes, narrative arc. I didn’t go to the New School (you really know how to hurt a man) to figure out the importance of structure.

And another thing, Jerry: If you want a 46-minute, gift-wrapped, quick-cut, leave-nothing-unsaid TV drama, there’s always NBC. Me, I’ll patiently wait out The Sopranos season.

I do like the image of you roughing up The Sopranos writers, though. I’d also like to see you up against Paulie Walnuts.

All this talk of sausage sandwiches reminds of one of the saddest images I have in my mind of your client, John A. Gotti. I will quote his sister, Victoria, to make my point. Several years ago, she told me, “Once, when we were driving down from the Marion, Ill., prison to St. Louis after visiting my father [that would be the now-deceased John J. Gotti], I couldn’t wait to eat. I was thinking Ruth’s Chris Steak House, or some Italian food, but John says, Cracker Barrel. I said, `What’s Cracker Barrel?’ He said I’d love it. So we get there, and all the furniture and everything is wood. Then he said the chicken and biscuits are really good. I said I was hoping for a steak. He said they had a country-fried steak that was excellent.  I said, `Country fried steak?’ I had the chicken and biscuits. I was glad there was dinner on the flight back home.”

I found it hard to believe that a bona fide New York Italian such as John A. Gotti would eat at a Cracker Barrel. So I asked one of his friends, Anthony Ameruso, about this; Ameruso used to make the drive to Marion with John as well. He confirmed that Gotti very much enjoyed the cooking at Cracker Barrel, as did he. I told him that this was a terrible shame, two men who are heirs to the greatest cuisine in history, seeking out Midwest Cracker Barrels. His response: “Hey, how much Italian food can you eat?”

Jerry, I hope you come back again, and I hope, for the sake of the physical safety of The Sopranos writers, that they shape up and give you a story.