David Ruggerio

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David Ruggerio
David Ruggerio.jpg
Sabatino Antonino Gambino

(1962-06-26) 26 June 1962 (age 60)
Culinary career
Cooking styleFrench, Italian

David Ruggerio (born Sabatino Antonino Gambino; June 26, 1962, in Brooklyn, USA) is an American chef, author, and television personality. Son of Saverio Erasmo Gambino and Constance Lazzarino, he became famous in the food world during the 1990s. Ruggerio honed his culinary skills in France at several of the country's leading restaurants, among them, the Hotel Negresco with Jacques Maximin [fr]; Moulin de Mougins with Roger Vergé; L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges with Paul Bocuse and Les Pres d'Eugenie with Michel Guérard.


His rise to fame began as the chef at the legendary New York eatery, La Caravelle.[1] At the time Ruggerio was only twenty-five years old and garnered rave reviews. He soon found himself a part of the crew of Gambino capo Carmine Lombardozzi, known as the 'King of Wall Street' for his stock pump and dump schemes. Lombardozzi had a rule that all his crew had to take legitimate day jobs to deter suspicion from law enforcement, which led to Ruggerio taking a job in the kitchen at La Caravelle, then one of the top French restaurants in the city.[2]

He went on to take command of Pierre Cardin's New York outpost of Maxim's de Paris[3] where he garnered three stars from the New York Times. He then took his talents to the iconic Park Avenue restaurant, Le Chantilly.[4] Here he gained national acclaim by again receiving three stars from the New York Times and being lauded over in an article by legendary writer Gael Greene entitled "Miracle on 57th Street".[5]

In a 2022 Vanity Fair interview Ruggerio claimed that from an early age, he was forced to follow his Sicilian father into the ways of the street. Taking part in various crimes such as extortion, loan-sharking, truck hijacking, bookmaking, heroin dealing, and murder. In 1979, after his fiancé was murdered by his father’s lieutenant, Ernie Boy Onorato, he became part of New York’s Cosa Nostra’s Gambino Family. Ruggerio said that in March 1978, he witnessed Sicilian gangster Egidio 'Ernie Boy' Onorato torture and murder a 56-year-old Genovese soldier named Pasquale 'Paddy Mac' Macchirole at a tire repair garage in Yonkers, New York. Ruggerio said Onorato left Macchirole's corpse in a car trunk in Brooklyn. Contemporary reporting confirms that police found Macchirole's body in March 1978.[6] "The body of a reputed organized-crime figure, once accused of extorting money from a prominent Queens nightclub owner who was later murdered, was found stuffed in the trunk of a rented car early yesterday in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn." March 24, 1978 NYT.[7]

Media personality[edit]

Ruggerio is a well known cookbook author. [8] In his first book, he celebrates his family, friends, and the foods of Little Italy. He followed that up with his second cookbook, where Ruggerio draws a distinction between the cooking of Naples and that of Sicily.[9]

He was honored in 1995 by noted vintner Robert Mondavi as a Rising Star Chef, in the first year of this national awards program. He went on to star in his own PBS cooking series entitled, "Little Italy with David Ruggerio."[10][11] He later went on to star in his own series on Food Network entitled, "Ruggerio to Go."

Ruggerio's first novel, "A Wistful Tale of Gods, Men and Monsters," won the Maxy Award 2019 for Best Horror Novel, and Pencraft Awards - Best Fiction Horror 2019. [12] He followed up with two more novels and his third cookbook. In the fall of 2022, he will release his long awaited memoir.

Legal history[edit]

On November 3, 1998, David Ruggerio was charged with stealing $190,000 from a credit card company by falsifying credit card receipts for payment, in one case by as much as $30,000. He falsified credit card payments by inflating the gratuities left by 26 customers at his restaurant.[13][14][15]

On March 12, 1999, he admitted to the charges and paid more than $100,000 in restitution to a credit card company, spent five years on probation and performed 500 hours of community service.[16][17] Due to this, Food Network debated keeping his show on the air but eventually decided against cancelling it. The network had produced dozens of episodes and spent a small fortune to market it.[18]

Ruggerio subsequently attempted to work in the culinary industry again.[19]

On March 24, 2022, Ruggerio, in a Vanity Fair article, claimed to have been an active member of Gambino crime family from 1977-2014.[20]


During the 1990s, he was known as one of the best chefs in America. In 1995, vintner Robert Mondavi chose him as one of the 13 best young chefs in America.[21]


  • Ruggerio, David; Acevedo, Melanie (1997). Little Italy Cookbook. New York: Artisan. ISBN 1885183542.
  • Ruggerio, David; McEvoy, Maura (2000). David Ruggerio's Italian Kitchen: Family Recipes from the Old Country. Artisan. ISBN 1579651151.
  • Ruggerio, David (2019). David Ruggerio's A Wistful Tale of Gods, Men, and Monsters. Black Rose Writing. ISBN 9781684333790.
  • Ruggerio, David (2020). Say Goodbye and Goodnight. Black Rose Writing. ISBN 978-1-68433-493-3.
  • Ruggerio, David (November 24, 2020). A Prison Without Locks. Texas: Black Rose Writing. p. 215. ISBN 978-1684336203.
  • Ruggerio, David (October 21, 2021). A Tomato Grows in Brooklyn. Texas: Black Rose Writing. p. 252. ISBN 9781684338795. OCLC 1273670275.

Featured publications[edit]

David Ruggerio has been featured in several national publications:


  1. ^ "Restaurants by Bryan Miller". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  2. ^ ""I'll Let the Chips Fall Where They May": The Life and Confessions of Mob Chef David Ruggerio". Vanity Fair. 24 March 2022.
  3. ^ "Restaurants by Bryan Miller". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  4. ^ "Restaurants by Bryan Miller". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  5. ^ "The Insatiable Critic/Gael Greene: Le Chantilly miracle on 57th Street". New York. 15 February 1993. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  6. ^ ""I'll Let the Chips Fall Where They May": The Life and Confessions of Mob Chef David Ruggerio". Vanity Fair. 24 March 2022.
  7. ^ Buder, Leonard (24 March 1978). "Three Men Linked to Mobs Found Slain in Brooklyn". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Little Italy Cookbook". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  9. ^ "David Ruggerio's Italian Kitchen: Family Recipes from the Old Country". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  10. ^ "Bits and Bytes by Eric Asimov". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  11. ^ "Lights! Camera! Action! (And some cooking too)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  12. ^ "Maxy Award - 2019 Recipients". Maxy Awards. Retrieved 2019-10-11.
  13. ^ "Chef of Former Le Chantilly Is Accused of Credit Theft". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  14. ^ "Chef accused of cooking up inflated credit card charges". Deseret News. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  15. ^ "Monitor by Suna Chang". EW. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  16. ^ "Chef Admits He Inflated Tips In Attempt to Steal Thousands". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  17. ^ "Chef Pleads In Theft Case". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  18. ^ "Bam: 8 Tasty Facts You Probably Don't Know About Food Network". Grub Street. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  19. ^ "The Cook, the Thief". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-30.
  20. ^ ""I'll Let the Chips Fall Where They May": The Life and Confessions of Mob Chef David Ruggerio". Vanity Fair. 24 March 2022.
  21. ^ "Garçon! Lager, s'il vpus plait! Forget wine -- Today's fine dining calls for beer". CNN Money. Retrieved 2018-11-27.
  22. ^ "Chicken Scaparello recipe". Food Arts. October 1995.
  23. ^ "Talent Everywhere Man". New York Magazine. 16 September 1996.
  24. ^ "Spiced Pear and Rum Risotto". Food & Wine. February 2012.
  25. ^ Andrew F. Smith (September 2009). "Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine". Google Books. ISBN 9780231511759.

External links[edit]