The term “mafia” comes from Sicily, Italy, and let’s be honest, the most famous of mobsters all hail from the Italian line of organized crime, also known as Cosa Nostra, which translated means “Our Thing.” And, it certainly is THEIR thing. While the term ‘Omertà’ governs the mafia with a code of silence, the Sip Advisor is breaking all the rules with our own ‘Most Wanted’ list of infamous Italian gangsters:
Thought of as the ‘Boss of Bosses’ during his reign at the top, Cascioferro was arrested approximately 69 times during his career, but always acquitted. His luck ran out in June 1930, when Cascioferro was tried for numerous offences, including murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion, and other offences. He was convicted and given a life sentence. He died in prison somewhere between 1943-45, with many inmates considering it an honour to now fill the same jail cell.
Dubbed the ‘King of the Black Market,’ Vizzini was even made mayor of Villalba, Italy (where his crime family was based), following World War II. Vizzini’s death was big news, even reported by the New York Times. Thousands turned out for the leader’s funeral, including other bosses, politicians, and priests. Vizzini predicted that the mafia would die with him and the old-school version did slowly dissolve, but was replaced by a more modern mob that we recognize today.
The boss of the famed Corleone family (also used for the Godfather movies) from 1944-58, Navarra was also a trained physician and perhaps this is why he was more likely to delegate murders than commit them himself. Navarra was killed on August 2, 1958 after feuding with former associate Luciano Leggio, whom Navarra tried to have ambushed by 15 gunmen, yet somehow Leggio survived with only minor injuries. I’d question his leadership, too!
Speaking of Leggio, he became the Corleone boss following Navarra’s death and is credited with starting the Second Mafia War. After a string of acquittals on various charges, Leggio finally found himself sentenced to life imprisonment for Navarra’s slaying, but disappeared, running a successful kidnapping ring while on the run. He was finally caught in 1974, but continued to have influence over the syndicate from behind bars. He died in prison, of a heart attack in 1993.
After Leggio was arrested in the 1970’s, Riina eventually took over control of the Corleone family, which was ironic because he was one of the suspects in the assassination of Navarra. Riina was considered the ‘Boss of Bosses’ following the Second Mafia War. Nicknamed ‘The Beast,’ by fellow mobsters, this 5’2” leader used a campaign of violence to achieve power, killing rivals, as well as prosecutors and other government officials. Riina was arrested in 1993, after 23 years as a fugitive.
One of the most powerful Sicilian bosses of all-time, Provenzano followed Riina as leader of the Corleone family. Once at the helm, Provenzano worked to change the perception of the mafia to being less violent, more diplomatic and willing to work with established institutions. Under the new guidelines, violence was only to be used if absolutely necessary. Despite all that, Provenzano spent more than 40 years evading police capture, before authorities finally arrested him in April 2006.
Italy: Sunday Confession
- 1 oz Limoncello
- 1 oz Tequila
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Top with Ginger Ale
- Garnish with a Cherry
This all has me wanting to go back and watch some of the best mafia media. Take your pick, but my favourites include The Godfather franchise, Goodfellas, The Sopranos, and Donnie Brasco. Perhaps I’ll have to do a future article on fictional mobsters… so long as they make me an offer I can’t refuse!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail has a perfect name for a mafia-related article, although confession would certainly go against the Omertà code of silence. I used Cranberry Ginger Ale instead of the recommended Ginger Beer because it seemed like a good idea and it worked out really well. Limoncello and Tequila was a decent mix, too.