November 11, 2020 – Twenty-five years ago this week the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub Massacre in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood marked the end of the bloody Francis (Cadillac Frank) Salemme regime in the New England mafia. After the “four on the floor” slayings in the bank-heist capital of Beantown in late 1995, long-simmering tensions in the Patriarca crime family began to calm as the vengeance-thirsty, Cadillac Frank lost his power from behind bars.
On the afternoon of November 6, 1995, Salemme soldier Robert (Bobby the Blade) Luisi, his son Roman, his nephew Tony Sarro and his bodyguard Anthony (Sonny) Pelosi were murdered as they ate lunch in a booth at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub by rivals in the drug game, possibly dispatched by Boston mobster Joseph (Joe Black) LaMattina, per FBI records. Tony Sarro’s brother, Ricky Sarro, survived the attack when the gunmen ran out of bullets.
Joe Black and Cadillac Frank were on opposite sides of a war that had raged throughout most of the charismatic and politically-savvy Salemme’s time atop the Patriarca crime family in the first half of the 1990s and ripped the syndicate apart at the seams. Salemme was in prison awaiting trial on a racketeering case at the time of the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub Massacre, taken into custody in August 1995.
LaMattina had feuded with Salemme’s son, Francis (Frankie Boy) Salemme, Jr. over drug-rip off scams the younger Salemme was running years earlier. The Salemmes’ allies in the city’s Irish mob, known as the “Winter Hill Gang,” stepped in and prevented LaMattina from killing Frankie Boy Salemme, according to federal intelligence-gathering documents. Salemme, Jr. died of cancer brought on by a bout with the AIDS virus in the months before the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub Massacre at age 38 and under indictment for racketeering.
Charlestown is an Irish neighborhood in Boston viewed as the Mecca of the bank robbery-bandit game. At the time of the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub Massacre, the area was under the purview of the Winter Hill Gang. Cadillac Frank Salemme was half-Irish and partnered with James (Whitey) Bulger’s Winter Hill Irish mob in rackets as soon as he took the reins as boss in 1990 amid a power struggle with the North End crew Joe Black LaMattina belonged to.
Informants told the FBI that with Salemme off the street in jail and his son dead, LaMattina felt empowered to seek retribution on Cadillac Frank’s man in the North End, Bobby “the Blade” Luisi, for a prior physical altercation. Luisi had sent LaMattina to the hospital after splitting his head open with a tire iron in a dispute over territory in October 1995. Three different informants told the feds that Joe Black used Bobby the Blade’s bitter rival, drug crew boss, Anthony Clemente, to do the job. Others said Clemente and his son, Damian, acted alone without authorization or contracting.
The Clementes and Luisis had been fighting over drug and gambling turf in the North End for more than a year. The night before the murders, Damian attacked a nephew of Luisi’s at a North End espresso bar and left him bruised and battered in an alley.
Damian Clemente and his driver Vinnie Perez bumped into the Luisi crew at the Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub in the early afternoon of November 6 and called for Damian’s father, Anthony, to come to the establishment for a confrontation. Per eye-witness testimony, Anthony arrived at Ninety-Nine Restaurant & Pub at 1:30 p.m., went over to the Luisi table and after a brief argument, pulled out his gun and started blasting away. He shot Bobby the Blade, Roman Luisi, Tony Sarro and Sonny Pelosi all in the head at point-blank range. Richie Sarro was wounded in the shoulder, but was saved from execution when Clemente’s gun ran out of bullets as he went in for the kill-shot.
Damian Clemente and Perez were arrested at the scene by off-duty police officers eating at a nearby table. Anthony Clemente was taken into custody at his son and Perez’s arraignment the next day. They were all found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Salemme was convicted in his racketeering case as well and flipped in 1999, entering the Witness Protection Program and let out of prison early by helping the government prove an illicit relationship between Whitey Bulger and a pair of rogue FBI agents. In 2016, he was arrested again, this time under an assumed name living in Atlanta for a 1993 murder he ordered and neglected to tell the feds about when he cut his deal.
Cadillac Frank and an accomplice were found guilty at a 2018 trial of the slaying of a former Salemme business partner named Stevie DiSarro, which took place in Salemme’s family residence in the Boston suburb of Sharon, Massachusetts. Frankie Boy Salemme, Jr. strangled DiSarro to death on May 10, 1993 in the kitchen of the Sharon residence with his dad watching on and his mom upstairs asleep. The Salemmes and DiSarro co-owned a failing South Boston strip club together and the Salemmes worried DiSarro was going to turn on them to get out of legal problems of his own.
The 87-year old Salemme will live out the rest of his years in federal custody. Bulger was murdered in a West Virginia federal penitentiary two years ago.
Bobby the Blade’s surviving son, Robert (Boston Bobby) Luisi, Jr. wound up joining the Philadelphia mob in the wake of his dad, brother and cousin’s murders. Luisi, Jr. started the Philly mafia’s New England wing, looking after the Bruno-Scarfo crime family’s interests in the Northeast from 1997 until his bust in 2000. He eventually became a cooperator, but backed out of his deal at the last second. Today, Luisi, Jr. is a pastor in Tennessee living under the name Alfonso Esposito.