THE BEST OF TAMPA’S MOBSTER HANGOUTS
Down on Kennedy Boulevard was the former Castaways Lounge, now the Lazzara Liquors store. For a while in the late 60s and early 70s, the Castaways was considered by law enforcement as the unofficial headquarters of Frank “Daddy Frank” Diecidue, longtime underboss of the Tampa Mafia. Diecidue, who died in 1994, had a motley crew of drug dealers and arsonists, some of whom were implicated in the 1975 murder of Tampa Police Detective Richard Cloud. A bartender at the Castaways was the late Johnny “Scarface” Rivera, a noted mob associate, one-time bodyguard of Charlie Wall, and a suspected hitman.
As expected, Ybor City has more gangland haunts and hangouts than any other part of the city, and appropriately so, since it was where the bolita syndicate started and ran their operations for most of the early years of Tampa’s history.
At 2201 15th Street North in Ybor City, sits the structural shell of the Yellow House Bar. In the 1950s and 60s, the Yellow House was owned by Augustine “Primo” Lazzara, a regular feature in the papers for his ties to the bolita racket, and named as an integral part of the Tampa Mafia during the McClellan Commission hearings in 1963. Rumors circulated that the Yellow House, built in the 1920s, once housed a brothel upstairs. On June 30, 1950, Primo’s bodyguard was leaving the Yellow House with $2,000 worth of checks when he was held up at gunpoint. The Ybor City buzz grew so loud that the Tampa Tribune did an article on the robbery the next day. An unidentified relative told the Tribune, “We know who did it. We are waiting until we hear from Primo before we act.”
La Tropicana Café (1822 E. 7th Avenue) is one of the most popular lunch spots in Ybor City. On the wall is a picture of the former owner, Frank “Cowboy” Ippolito, who before his death in 2008 was a regular fixture at the restaurant. In the 1960s and 70s, Frank did more than eat a bowl of black beans at “La Trop.” Law enforcement investigations found him running a sizeable bookmaking operation out of the restaurant with the help of Henry Trafficante.
Outside the 7th Avenue corridor of Ybor was the Dream Bar (2801 Nebraska Avenue), originally called the Nebraska Bar. It had an adjoining poolroom (2806 Nebraska Avenue) and was owned by the Trafficante family. The long-time bartender and manager was Nick Scaglione, a gambling figure who was well-known to police and named by law enforcement as a made guy in the local Mafia.
On August 18, 1954, just a week after the death of Santo Trafficante Sr, police were called to the bar to investigate a reported shooting. When police arrived they found blood on the sidewalk out front and a torn shirt inside. The customers, including Frank Ippolito, claimed no knowledge of the shooting and police never found a victim. But there was a victim a few years later when Nick Scaglione was stabbed while tending bar. He refused to name his assailant. The Dream Bar was also at the center of a federal tax lien against the estate of Santo Trafficante, Sr. In 1962, when the Feds started closing the noose around the Trafficante brothers (Santo Jr, Henry, and Sam), the bar was damaged in a fire.