Had dinner here once back in my regular Vegas-playing days, as the guest of a certain *ahem* “client”. It oozes the old Vegas history, you can practically see and hear Sinatra, Martin, Giancana, Lansky and all the other classic Vegas characters, smoking, laughing, dining, with martinis in hand.
It’s truly an iconic place, that still holds the glory of the “Old Vegas” that is long since gone forever. I was lucky to have gotten to see a small piece of it, while there was still some left. This place represents that era in every possible way. Hope it survives.
HOMETOWN U.S.A.: LAS VEGAS
The Italian American Social Club, once frequented by Chicago and New York crime families, is looking for new blood — as patrons, not targets.
August 3, 2013, 9:42 p.m.
It was a Thursday night and the place was packed: the Italian American Social Club was saying goodbye to one of its own.
Singer Mark Giovi was leaving town, and the dress-for-success crowd sipped martinis and watched him work the room with the verve of a Rat Pack member.
Just like the old days.
Over more than five decades, the venerable social club and restaurant on Sahara Avenue, a few miles east of The Strip, has seen its good times and bad: Sinatra was once a member here and Dino (Martin) and Perry (Como) often joined him onstage. But there were also times marked by poor management and the constant battle against the perception (mostly by the federal government) that the place was a perilous mob hangout.
So, were there ever “made” guys in the house?
President Angelo Cassaro smiles. You bet, he says.
Was the joint ever, uh, dangerous?
Never. (Well, almost.)
The social club is a survivor, an institution that remembers its past but knows it must change for the future: Sure, there’s still a boccie ball club, and inside the white brick building guarded by several pseudo-Roman statues, the pasta Bolognese is still authentic. The decor is sophisticated — not a red-and-white plastic table top or Tower of Pisa fresco in sight.
Even so, the place is looking for new blood.
“This club is really vintage Vegas,” Cassaro said. “The food is still fabulous and it’s always been a fun place to be. But we’re looking for a new generation to come here and take us into the future.”
Of course, the once all-male bastion isn’t disowning its colorful past. Members of the Chicago, New York, New Jersey and Buffalo crime families once frequented the club, bringing in the federal undercover guys.
“It was funny to see the feds at the bar in their Hawaiian shirts, nursing iced teas, looking at the mirror into the room next door where the made guys ate family-style,” Cassaro said. “They just assumed bad things happened here.”
Good things, too. The social club was founded in 1961. Within four years, members had built their palatial 12,000-square-foot headquarters, thanks to lavish fundraisers for which Sinatra brought in national talent and glitz.