Nat Hentel had just been appointed Queens district attorney when, to enhance his chances at the polls, he declared he would “rid the city of top hoodlums.”
At 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 22, 1966, acting upon a tip from two alert cops, Hentel organized a sweeping arrest of 13 top Mafia leaders at La Stella, an Italian restaurant at 102-11 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills. The media called the event “Little Apalachin,” considering it reminiscent of the famous 1957 mob sitdown in Apalachin, N.Y.
Right on the boulevard were Mafia leaders Carlo Gambino, Joseph Columbo, Joseph Gallo, Santo Trafficante of Florida, Carlos Marcello of New Orleans, all at the same table. All were arrested, and police even hauled in the owners of the restaurant, Joseph and Jack Taliercio.
The 13 suspects were brought down to the old 112th Precinct in Maspeth, strip-searched to their underwear and fingerprinted. Hentel woke up Supreme Court Justice Joseph M. Conroy and drove him to the police station to hold court before sunrise. Bail was set at $100,000 each. By Friday night all had been freed on a total of $1.3 million.
The purpose of the meeting was never definitively explained, but a theory says that since Thomas Lucchese was terminally ill with a brain tumor at his home in Lido Beach, a successor had to be agreed upon. Whatever the reason, for all those men to travellong distancesto meet, it must have been of national importance to organized crime.
In the end nothing came of the arrests. Hentel was severely beaten by Tom Mackell in the election for Queens DA, by 71,000 votes. The Taliercios passed on, and their great restaurant moved to Great Neck, where it still serves the very finest Italian food — fit for a Godfather.