John's of 12th Street


A Century Old Classic Italian With TV and Mafia Panache

Johns 12th street restaurant east village





About John's of 12th Street

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • One of our favorite old-school Italian classics with over a century of storied history
  • Opened in 1908, John’s of 12this one of the oldest restaurants in New York City.
  • Vibe is dimly-lit, old-school white tablecloth — great for date night and small groups.
  • John’s has felt the love on the small screen, featured in the last episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknownas well as on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Scenes in The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire also were filmed at John’s.
  • Have a lot of friends?  John’s has a back room that can hold up to 70, for your private party.
  • If you go, don’t forget to check out the famous candle.  (More on that below!)
  • If you are a mafia buff, then you should know that John’s on 12this famous as the place where mob boss Joe Masseria took revenge on Umberto Valenti (More below!)
  • Get — Polpetto di Vitello (Veal Meatballs) and Tuscan Ragu over Homemade Pappardelle.  Vegan?? John’s has a menu for you too including some well-reviewed vegan meatballs.

Carpe City Trivia

What's up with the massive candle at John's?

John’s is full of memorabilia, but one of the most significant relics is the massive, castle-like candle that looms large in the back of the dimly-lit restaurant. According to the owner, during Prohibition, the candle resided in the front window and would be blown out when cops were coming. The candle served as a harbinger that alerted those in the back of the restaurant, which was also a speakeasy. As an homage to those speakeasy days, John’s has continued to light the candle every day since the repeal of Prohibition.

John’s of 12th Street Prohibition Candle

Meatballs and Mafia

Joe Masseria was a lucky mobster (well, at least until “Lucky” got to him). He literally dodged bullets from a hit ordered by his nemesis Umberto Valenti who worked for a famous big-wig mob boss named Toto De Aquila.  Masseria plotted his revenge and invited Valenti for a meal at John’s of 12thSt under the guise of a peace treaty.  As Valenti emerged from John’s, two of Masseria’s henchmen, Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Vito Genovese, approached and shot Valenti dead.  Lucky got a promotion and Masseria set his sights on a takeover of Toto De Aquila’s business. Joe Masseria eventually did become the big boss but then met with his unfortunate demise from a hit ordered by his protégé, Lucky Luciano.

By: Kelly McDermott & Christi Scofield
Photography by:

Kelly McDermott





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