The Former Food Network Star Who Just Revealed He Worked For The Mafia

Food Network has helped define culinary celebrities and some of the biggest stars emerged as a result of their time on the television channel. Delish reports that household names like Emeril Legasse and Jaimie Oliver emerged from their collaborations with the cooking station. Other star chefs have stepped back from the limelight. You may or may not remember hosts like David Rosengarten of "Taste," or Ming Tsai from the show "East Meets West."

You might expect these chefs to continue running their restaurants or move on to other projects, but one former Food Network personality's main job overshadowed his actual day job as the host of a cooking program. According to Vanity Fair, David Ruggerio hosted a variety of cooking shows like "Little Italy with David Ruggerio," and "Ruggerio To Go." The host had worked at some of the top kitchens in New York, cooked for presidents like Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon, and The New York Times even ranked one of his restaurants as a three-star experience. Underneath the cover of a Food Network chef, Ruggerio secretly operated as a member of the mafia and used his star power as a way to deflect his less-than-legal true day job.

David Ruggerio's time in the Mafia

New York Post reports that Ruggerio got his start in organized crime well before he cooked in restaurants. The former host, who's true name is Sabatino Antonino Gambino, joined the underworld at the age of 11 and worked as "an active soldier for the Gambinos." Ruggerio's Sicillian father, Saverio Erasmo Gambino, who was a cousin of mob boss Carlo Gambino, helped induct him into this world when the pair took a trip to Sicily in 1977 and Reggerio "was made by Santo Inzerillo." As part of the ritual, Reggerio also received a homemade tattoo of a cross on his shoulder emblazoned with the Italian phrase for "man of trust." Over the years, Reggerio witnessed and took part in the murders of rival gang members and informants, dealt drugs, and participated in a number of kidnappings, among other crimes. 

According to Deadline, Reggerio worked for a crime group run by Carmine Lombardozzi who encouraged all of its members to have legitimate day jobs in order to hide their true crimes. As a result, Reggerio pursued a career in cooking.

In 1998, the law took Reggerio down over credit card fraud, and a court ordered the chef to serve five years of probation and pay back $100,000. Reggerio got another wakeup call after his son died as a result of illicit activity, and when Reggerio's friend and co-conspirator Daniel Marino didn't come to his son's funeral, Reggerio decided to leave organized crime behind him.