Volume 75, Number 22 | October 19 - 22, 2005

Bar owner beaten, reportedly after arguing about smoking

By Lincoln Anderson

An owner of a bar on Broome St. in Little Italy was viciously attacked last month outside the bar, possibly after an argument about smoking inside the bar, Odea.

According to Sonny Stellmann, Fifth Police Precinct community affairs officer, Joseph “Joey Clams” Caruso was beaten up in a parking lot near the bar, which is off Baxter St.

“The rumor was [it started over] smoking — but I don’t think it was smoking,” said Stellmann. He said he didn’t know if there were any arrests, and that he’d heard “the feds were called in” on the investigation.

Word on the street was that two or more women were smoking in the bar and that Caruso, who is about 35, told them it was illegal and that they had to stop, and the women then called some men over “from Spring St.” and Caruso was assaulted.

The attack happened a month ago during the start of the Feast of San Gennaro, but reportedly was not linked to the festival. Caruso, who is still in the hospital, may have some lasting brain damage, though it’s not known for sure.

Robert Ianniello, another partner in Odea, was at the scene, but said he was outside at the time when whatever sparked the violence occurred.

“It was an incident. There was an argument,” he said, confirming that people are saying it may have started over cigarette smoking. “That’s the rumor,” he said.

“He was hurt,” Ianniello said of Caruso. “He’s got problems — but we don’t know how bad. Last I heard, he was walking around. The doctors are only allowing the family in the there to see him, so everything I’m hearing is third or fourth hand.”

Ianniello is president of the Little Italy Merchants Association and also of the Fifth Police Precinct Community Council. Asked if he was hurt in the assault, he declined to comment, saying the assistant district attorney has told him not to discuss the incident since there is an investigation.

Sal Inserra, manager at Umberto’s Clam House, which Ianniello also owns and which is across the street from Odea, said he had heard Ianniello was attacked.

“He was beat up really bad,” Inserra said. “They thought he had kidney damage. They said that it was the girls that did the real damage,” allegedly kicking Caruso when he was on the ground. Inserra said Caruso and his attackers all grew up in the neighborhood and also know each other from a nearby gym where they work out. He said Caruso is single and works at Newsday.
Ianniello said arrests were made.

A Fifth Precinct detective said the investigation is ongoing and that he couldn’t comment.

Asked if there was a federal investigation, Bridget Kelly, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said, “We don’t confirm or deny ongoing investigations.”

Ianniello didn’t know anything about federal law enforcement being on the case, “but,” he said, “this is Little Italy.

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