What Ever Happened to the South Philly Mob?

It’s been at least six years since anyone has been killed by the Philadelphia Mafia. Is it the passing of a way of life, or an eerie calm before an ­approaching storm? Our writer takes to the streets of South Philly — and sips wine with the current Godfather — to find out

This isn’t to say there is nothing going on, or that this crew completely lacks criminal ambition. Two recent gambling-ring busts in Delaware County and at the Borgata in Atlantic City suggest the Philly mob still has some reach. There is also a spot that contrasts significantly with Malone’s, which I find when an undercover cop tells me about a place called the Broadway Theatrical Club. “That’s where they hang out,” the cop said, “but it’s a private club. You’ll never get in.”

So, when is a mob bar not a mob bar? Apparently, when it’s the Broadway Theatrical Club, because I walk right in the entrance at 13th and Moyamensing, past the “Private” sign, past the two older men having a meeting under the front window, and order a $2.50 Yuengling. It’s a sunny day, and with the front door propped open, the place is brightly lit. The furnishings are humble, with tile floors, a ’70s-era stand-up bowling machine in the corner, and a big, weathered horseshoe-shaped bar. When I arrive, three guys are already sitting there, nursing beers. Two of them are holding a loud conversation as the bartender sets my Yuengling in front of me:

Guy One: They chased him all the way down the street with a baseball bat!

Guy Two: Fastest guy you’d ever seen!

Guy One: Fastest man in the world!

Guy Two: It was so funny! Who was that other guy? Chris? The kidnapping? They grabbed him and shaved his head?

Guy One: Don’t know that story.

Guy Two: It was sooo funny!

I would describe them, except that I keep my head turned squarely toward one of the bar’s televisions, not wanting to betray interest in what they’re saying. They walk out a moment later — because of me? I don’t know — and I never do get a good look at them. But what strikes me about their conversation is that they sounded like they were telling stories — describing events of long ago, that happened to other men. This isn’t unusual; legendary defense attorney Eddie Jacobs told me of an annual dinner he attends at which the conversation often turns to stories about the local mob. The participants aren’t mobsters, and they aren’t exactly nostalgic for the days when the mob seemed to run this town. But they like to talk about the times their lives intersected with those of this city’s gangsters, when they essentially walked on-set and played minor roles in Philadelphia’s longest ongoing movie.

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  • Matt

    Came across this article today. I live very near the "social club" on 13th street, and always had my theories on just what type of place it is. Now I know. Good read. And for the record, most of the clients there are good people, just the younger crowd making a ruckus at 3am that's a problem.

  • Jill

    I moved from Center City to 11th and Wolf a couple of years ago. I walk my dog past the club on 13th Street all the time. Like the previous commenter, I always had my suspicions, but the guys outside have always been courteous, even complimenting my dog. Oh, and the food at Bomb Bomb is really, really good. I'm really enjoying the neighborhood, which seems easier to do without Merlino-type antics happening.

  • Suite jimmy

    The Philadelphia{MOB} has always been an entiny unto itself,however, reporters will never get the true story straight it remains hidden for over a hundred years…EMERTA is alive and well!!!

    • Philly

      Omerta you mean. Code of honor / code of silence… Very powerful and the way to live. My grandpop always said keep your mouth shut no matter what!!

  • Pasquale

    Plain and simple…Uncle Joe has brought respect and stability back to this city's La Cosa Nostra. He's a proud man who have survived several regimes and is quite frankly "The Last Man Standing." He's smart in that he's learned from the mistakes the other have made. Good job Uncle Joe! We love ya!

  • Brian

    Anyone have any idea where the Grays Ferry steak and veal spot is? I can't think of anywhere on the street that Mr. Ligambi could have been talking about.

  • meat

    The only thing I can think of would be Gaupp Meat at 33rd and Dickinson,though it's wholesale. Of course, I am sure Mr. Ligambi could make that work.

  • BUCK

    I MYSELF COMMING AND GROWING UP IN ALL ITALIAN NIEGBORHOOD LIKE S.PHILLY; WALKED INTO THE BOMB BOMB BY CHANCE, LOOKED LIKE A PLACE I WAS USED TO AND WAS RIGHT, AT FIRST THERE WERE SOME SUSPISIONS PUT SOON SUBSIDED, THEY ASKED IF I WAS FROM S.PHILLY I SAID NO BUT A PLACE SIMALAR TO THIS, I DROPPED BY AFTER A DOCTORS APP. AT HUP. I TRULY THINK YOU HAVE TO BE, ITALIAIN TO UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE, AND HOW PEOPLE ARE I LOVE THE PLACE AND GO OFTEN AND NOT LOOKIN FOR A THRILL OF SEEING "MOBSTERS"

  • DINO

    ITALIANS ARE ALL OVER AND NOW WERE EVERYWERE PEOPLE ITALIANS ARE GREAT IN EVERTHING NOT JUST FROM BEING FROM SOUTHPHILA MY FATHER FROM SOUTH PHILA HIS FATHER FROM THE MOTHER LAND MY MOTHER FROM NORTHEAST HER PARENTS FROM ITALY THE MOTHER LAND YES IAM ALL ITALY SO WHAT IAM SOUTHPHILA ITALIAN WERE MY FATHER GREW UP OR JUST ITALIAN ITS CRAZY LOVE ALL ITALIANS GOD BLESS US ALL

  • Anonymous

    MY NAME IS NICKY AND I RELIZE THAT PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO GET RID OF ARE KIND BUT TO BE HONEST THAT AN’T STOPING ME FROM WHAT I DO AND AN’T STOPING THEM FOR WHAT THEY DO JUST GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE AND MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS AND GO BACK TO WHATEVER YOU FUCKING CAME FROM.

    • Danny Philly

      BADA BING. BADA BOOM. STFU.

  • erik “stick man”

    I lived in the 300 block of Wolf St. in the mid to late 80′s and early 90′s. i miss those days! I hope to soon come back with my wife and children to show them my old stomping grounds!

  • Robert Rura

    I need to know where i can find the italian mob. I’m 50% italian and i have no where else to go, i got a dui and my parents are kicking me out of the house. I grew up @ 12th and Moore and use to know people in the mob but have lost contact with them over the years. Please help me regain access to them. 215-301-7815 is my number

    • Danny Philly

      dude. stfu.