The co-owner of a famous Brooklyn pizzeria has been shot dead in the backyard of his home in what is feared to be a mob hit.
Louis Barbati, who ran L&B Spumoni Gardens, was found dead near 12th Avenue and 76th Street in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, on Thursday night.
Police are searching for the suspect, an NYPD spokesman TOT.
The shooting occurred shortly after 7pm. Barbati, 61, was found shortly afterward with multiple gunshot wounds to the torso, CBS2 reports.
He was discovered slumped near a side door to his house and pronounced dead at the scene
Barbati’s wife, two sons and another woman were home at the time, the New York Daily News reports.
‘I ran up and he was face-down on the stairs,’ a neighbor told the Daily News. ‘I saw blood on the stairs and blood on his back.’
However, the circumstances that led to Barbati’s death remain unclear – but investigators believe it may have been a hit job, the New York Post reports.
The suspect, who is described as a white male, in his 30s, and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, opened fire and quickly fled the scene.
Residents in the neighborhood paid tribute to the owner of their favorite pizza parlor.
‘I’ve been eating at L&B since I was a kid,’ Frankie Modafferi told the Post.
‘It’s a big loss for everyone in the neighborhood every one loves L&B and everyone loves Louie.’
L&B Spumoni Gardens is an iconic family-style Italian restaurant in Gravesend known for its Sicilian-style pizza and ices.
It was founded by Ludovio Barbati, who had moved to the United States in 1917 from Totella Di Lobardi, Italy.
He learned how to make pizza in a garage and then peddled his products using a horse and wagon on the streets of Brooklyn.
In 1939, he brought an inexpensive property on 86th Street to make spumoni – a molded Italian ice cream and the venture was extremely popular with locals, the restaurant’s website says.
In the 1950s, the current pizzeria was built, where the Barbatis began selling their famously thick Sicilian pies.
The popular restaurant has been featured on an episode of Man v. Food – but also reportedly almost started a mob war over a stolen sauce recipe in 2012.
Barbati’s son-in-law Frank Guerra a Colombo mafia family associate in New York – was accused of extorting the owner of a rival pizzeria in 2009 after they allegedly stole L&B’s famed pizza sauce recipe.
He was acquitted of the charges in 2012, according to the Daily News.
Guerra had accused Eugene Lombardo, a Bonanno crime family associate, whose sons worked at L&B, of taking their method and using it at his new restaurant, The Square, in Staten Island.
Anthony Russo, a former Colombo mafia boss, told a court in 2012 that Guerra had flipped when he found out about the theft.
‘It’s a famous pizzeria. Their pizza, their Spumoni, their ices,’ he said in court.
Russo said he went to Staten Island to confront Lombardo over the copying of the recipe.
When he arrived there with Guerra and Frank Iannaci they saw a sign that advertised their products as ‘L&B style pizza.’
‘Gene [Lombardo] came out and [Guerra] started yelling at him,’ Russo told the court. ‘He told him he’s a “piece of s***, a s***bag, robbed my family, I’ll break your head”,’ Russo said.
There were fears that the confrontation could have turned nasty after Iannaci slapped Lombardo – but instead, the rivals decided to sit down and discuss the issue at a Panera Bread in Staten Island.
The meeting was called by Bonanno soldier Anthony Calabrese, according to Russo. It was there that the Colombos reportedly demanded a share in the restaurant or a $75,000 payment for stealing the recipe.
Eventually, Lombardo agreed to pay $4,000. Guerra received $2,000, Calabrese got $1,500, and $500 went to their consigliere, the court heard.
‘I told Frank to take the offer.
It was ridiculous to go any further with it, just accept the money and move on,’ Rosso said.