Though ostensibly the memoirs of Tony Delvecchio, Sinatra, Gotti, and Me: The Rise and Fall of Jilly's Nightclub is, above anything else, a snapshot of an era. And it’s an era that’s somewhat hard to define. The book takes place mainly in the 1970s, but it doesn’t have the stereotypical feel of either gritty '70s New York City, nor of the disco-fueled, wide-lapelled excess. It’s a slice of the interesting dichotomy between old guards still at the top of their game (Sinatra) and young upstarts looking to make a name for themselves (John Gotti). The back cover describes it as a lost piece of American pop culture and that’s a dead-on description.
The book is written by Rich Herschlag who also collaborated on a book about legendary comedian and — as I most remember him — frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show, Pat Cooper. Pat is also a minor character in this book and wrote the foreword.
There's another major character, Jilly — named in the subtitle — extended to both the person (Jilly Rizzo), and the restaurant (Jillys). It’s Tony’s roller coaster ride running the famed restaurant that is the real focal point of the book. You get a real feel for the way a celebrity and hype-driven establishment was run and how the upperworld and underworld mingled on a nightly basis.
This really isn’t a book about the Mafia either. Though John Gotti’s name is on the cover, he doesn’t play nearly as big of a role as other people, but his friendship with Tony is an interesting portrait of the upcoming mobster long before he ascended the throne of the Gambino crime family. The references to organized crime figures are spread throughout the book, but they are for the most part, peripheral characters, moving in and out of scenes and the greater story of Tony Delvecchio’s life.