Is Al Capone's Cuban Beach House a Gangster Hoax?

‘The Capones’ return to deliver a shot of reality TV from their Chicago pizzeria, renewing our interest in the flamboyant prohibition-era booze king and rumors he owned an island retreat.

Photo by: James D. Cameron, via Panoromio Rumors persist that this house-turned-restaurant in Varadero, Cuba, was once owned and lived in by Chicago mobster Al Capone. 

Jonathan Eig, author of Get Capone, had a doozy of a myth-busting Wall Street Journal piece wherein he shreds one of the sacred cows of Capone lore: Eliot Ness, he contends, did not bring him down as The Untouchables film convinced us. He blasts holes in the G-man’s Hollywood-style legacy (Ness ended up selling hamburger patties after he left the FBI), saying he was little more than “a nuisance” to the bootlegger, raided a few breweries, and, like his nemesis, was a big old Chicago-sized publicity hound dog who tipped off local photographers to come by and snap off a few shots during prearranged distillery raids. 

In other words, it was all staged, and brings up the matter of another Capone myth, a beautiful sun-soaked Varadero, Cuba, beach house myth. First the facts. It's true Capone’s 36,000-square-foot Miami beach property, the place he died of syphilis in 1947, sold for over $7 million in 2013. But this La Casa de Al, a coral stone spread touted by tourist agencies as a true-to-life Cuban home of Capone, well, that story is thinning like a bad comb-over. Turns out, it’s bunk. There’s not a thimble-full of evidence that this house with gorgeous French windows and stone arches was ever owned, walked or slept in by the mobster. (It was owned by a dentist.)

And in ironies of ironies, at the very entrance is a sign informing all who care to know that Capone never lived there. But who reads the fine print?

The baby-faced Capone might be heaving the last big laugh. His heirs, an oversized, loud, dysfunctional brood have parlayed the family name and legacy into reality television on The Capones, returning this January. They lay it all out, on-site and up-close, at Capone’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Lombard, Ill., co-owned by great-nephew Dominic Capone who also had roles in R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet batch of videos and actually played his great-uncle in The Real Untouchables

And, no, as Capone might say, we’re not kidding you.

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