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An Italian Restaurant, An FBI Raid, And Springfield's Struggling Entertainment District

An FBI raid on an Italian restaurant in downtown Springfield last week has apparently shuttered the business for good. Adolfo's Ristorante was one of two establishments raided by federal agents and state police on October 23. 

The restaurant was owned by Victor Bruno and named after his late father, Adolfo "Big Al" Bruno, a Genovese crime-family boss, who was gunned down by mob rivals in 2003.

Stephanie Barry of The Republican has covered organized crime as part of her beat. 

Kari Njiiri, NEPR: Adolfo's has been in business for about a decade. What prompted Victor Bruno to call it quits?

Stephanie Barry, The Republican: Well, from what he told me, as you know, the business and the property has been up for sale for some time. But when I spoke to Victor for several minutes outside the business as agents were carting boxes out of his — essentially — life's work recently, he told me just walking away had been on his mind for some time. And I think the raids...those were the tipping point.

The other business raided last week by the feds was the Mardi Gras strip club, just up the street from Adolfo's, although that appears to still be operating. What are the feds and your sources saying about the raid?

So I don't see any obvious commonalities between the two businesses except their proximity to one another. And the players are in this kind of pool — I use the phrase "mob adjacent" in one of my stories, and I really wasn't being sarcastic so much as trying to be accurate.

I think that the raids, though they were simultaneous, were not necessarily related to the business holdings, if you will. The closest that I could find to an answer — and of course, these are not even allegations at this point because no one has been charged criminally — what I'm hearing from some sources that I trust is that they were both subject to a sting by these undercover IRS agents posing as Russian buyers out of New York, because both of the businesses were on the block.

And that particular scenario is not terribly new. The IRS, using these undercover buyers, has targeted businesses beyond this area in another part of the state and actually in Enfield, Connecticut.

In light of his father's controversial past, so to speak, has Victor Bruno been linked to any kind of criminal activity, organized crime?

He has never been charged with a crime.

What does Adolfo's closure mean for the city's entertainment district, which has undergone several renovation projects but has struggled in recent years?

It definitely has.

So when Victor began opening restaurants and bars in that city block, Adolfo's was not the first. He's been there since 1996, when under a former administration, it was quite bustling in the entertainment district. And then it kind of waned, and it flagged and struggled during the recession and through other administrations that weren't quite as bar-entertainment friendly.

But he hung in there lately in that same city block. There have been two new restaurants that have opened, a Thai restaurant and a sushi restaurant, thanks in large part to Victor's cheerleading for the downtown and trying to draw businesses to that city block.

Could this be a sort of death knell for it?

I'm not sure that I would predict that it would be a death knell. I think it's a blow to a downtown that doesn't need another blow.

Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."
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