Of Al Capone, The Thief Maker and Death by Baklava

On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief Maker Reality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  

It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA).  Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory.  It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone. 

Following the prison breakout, we strolled through the charming Bookhaven used book store on Fairmount Avenue (which featured in a prominent scene in the novel) where I picked up some great additions to my “Mantelpiece Collection” – a beautifully illustrated version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a gorgeous 1966 Heritage Edition of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, and a classically worn collector’s set of William Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy.  

Before waltzing around the rest of the neighborhood (with the requisite stop on Green Street at “Felice Morrison’s House” aka The Bergdoll Mansion) we ate at Zorba’s Tavern.  The family owned Greek restaurant has been featured in my dining guides previously, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…Zorba’s – hand’s down – serves the greatest Greek food I have ever eaten.  It’s the type of restaurant where if after finishing my meal, I expired right there at the table, I would die a happy man.  I frequented the establishment circa 2005-2007, and it’s nice to see some things don’t change, and if anything, Zorba’s Tavern has only gotten better.  By the time we came to our baklava and Greek coffee, we felt like we had lapsed into comas, only to find our spirits floating outside the restaurant to continue the reality tour. 

And now for your viewing pleasure…some snapshots: 

 Written and Photographed by David H. Schleicher


  1. david, what kind of camera are you using? i love taking photos of buildings at odd angles. have some photos along those lines of rome. you can almost reach out and feel the rough textures of the exterior walls.

    Dianne, I use a very simple (i.e. cheap) HP Digital Photosmart. Trees and buildings at odd angles are “my thing” so to be able to capture that shrub on top of the prison wall – it was like I died and went to heaven. I’d love to see your Rome photos! –DHS

  2. David,

    Sounds you had an enjoyable day. I did not know Capone spent some time in a Philly Pen. I did have the chance to visit one of his other hangouts on the west coast – Alcatraz. I love Greek food myself. I live near Tarpon Springs ins Fla. which is a Greek community, and tourist spot, with tons of Greek restaurant. Being vegetarian I am limited but there is still much to savor.

    Ah, John, I would love to go to Alcatraz. I really need to get out to the West Coast one of these days. Greek food is pretty adaptable to vegetarians I would think – Zorba’s had a number of vegetarian dishes – all those grapes leaves and rice and olives and peppers. –DHS

  3. Tremendous day indeed David! I once took a tour in Hoboken to view many of the scenes featured in ON THE WATERFRONT, included the dockfront shack, St. Joseph’s church, the park where Brando and Malden meet, and even the meat-hook where Steiger was hung (now behind a Walmart) and the film’s then living writer Budd Schulberg was the speaker.

    But YOUR trip is even more stupendous, as it is taking a look at some of the places in your own novel.

    I would have loved to be there with you!

    Man, that meat-hook must’ve been something else! –DHS

  4. Hi! D.H. Schleicher…

    I’am looking kind of, mischievous as I post on your blog…I’am so very sorry! about your post over there on Sam Juliano’s blog.

    D.H.Schleicher, I read this post a couple of days ago…
    …several interesting things are going on here… For instance, The photographs, The Thief Maker tour,
    your visit to a Greek restaurant (with the meal, coffee, and baklava to “die” for…) and the fact that you…

    …said,”where I picked up some great additions to my “Mantelpiece Collection” – a beautifully illustrated version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a gorgeous 1966 Heritage Edition of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times, and a classically worn collector’s set of William Faulkner’s Snopes Trilogy…”

    This is a unique response to your quote that I quoted, but all I can say is…Wow!

    …”I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone.”

    Hmmm…I wonder if that furniture belonged to Al Capone, or did Eastern State Penitentiary place it there for show?

    DeeDee 😉

    DeeDee – that’s a good question about the furniture. I reckon at the time it was “provided” by the state at Capone’s “demand”. It certainly looked authentic in the cell. –DHS

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