What Happened One Hot July Afternoon In Brooklyn 40 Years Ago

The short, stocky, balding man stepped out of the air-conditioned chill of the brown Lincoln limousine and into the scorching July afternoon in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Joe And Mary Italian-American Restaurant

Wearing a white short-sleeved knit shirt open at the neck and blue slacks (in which $860 in cash and Medicare and social security cards had been shoved), the man waved goodbye to the driver, who was his nephew.

Then, sucking on his customary large Churchill cigar, the man strolled toward the nondescript eatery set between a law office and a pizza parlor on Knickerbocker Avenue. Dingy yellow curtains hung over the long front windows. A simple rectangular sign on top declared the place an Italian-American Restaurant and touted its takeout fare. Joe and Mary’s Italian-American Restaurant reportedly offered good food and was family-run, both of which appealed to the man, who was related to the owner.

Bushwick, once a prosperous enclave, was a fading Bonanno stronghold at the time. The neighborhood, nestled between Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant just across the Queens border, was actually in steady decline. It had the dubious distinction of suffering more than any other neighborhood in New York City during the blackout of July 1977, which ignited a violent outburst of arson and looting that resulted in four city blocks in Bushwick burning to the ground.

In 1979, Bushwick, was in the midst of a downward cycle that would see it lose 20 percent of its housing, one-third of its population, and almost half its businesses. 

Mobsters, especially "zips," still clung to the area, and operated and/or hung out in the remaining mob-controlled storefronts, cafes, and pizzerias. One of the perceived benefits for wiseguys was that undercover agents and police tended to stand out.

Carmine (Lilo) Galante pushed open the front door and walked inside. A Frank Sinatra album was propped on the front counter, and a print of da Vinci’s The Last Supper was mounted on the wall. A distant cousin, the "Joe" in the restaurant's name, Giuseppe "Joe" Turano and his wife owned the Joe and Mary Italian-American Restaurant. The owner greeted the powerful Bonanno capo who thought he was boss.

 The reason for Lilo's visit that day was to attend a bon voyage luncheon for his cousin, who was leaving the next day for a vacation in Sicily. 

After a brief chat, Lilo continued through the two dinning rooms, passing the brown velvet-papered walls and tables draped in yellow oilcloth and headed out the back door.

Galante emerged into the bright, searing sunlight of the narrow backyard patio, which chest-high wire fences separated from adjacent backyards. The back dining table had been situated close to the door leading back into the dining room. Tomato plants sprouted from a nearby small patch of ground. A yellow-and-turquoise-checked umbrella hung over the table, which itself was covered in a floral-patterned oilcloth.

Galante sat at the table in the shade of the umbrella. He was soon joined by his cousin and another much older man.

The table in the private patio had been specially prepared that day for three people: Galante, his cousin Giuseppe Turano, and Angelo Prisinzano, an elderly soldier and Lilo's devoted adjutant. However, before the first course was served, Prisinzano excused himself, complaining of a stomach ache. 

And a trio of unexpected Bonanno mobsters suddenly appeared.

Baldassare (Baldo) Amato, Cesare Bonventre, and Leonardo Coppolla, a drug dealer in Lilo’s faction, abruptly walked out onto the patio to greet the boss....

Galante invited them to join him and his cousin for lunch. 

Turano was surprised that Coppola would patronize his place because the two of them disliked each other. Galante, aware of the problems between the two, assumed the role of peacemaker and expressed his hopes that a convivial luncheon would end their feud....

Lunch that afternoon was light and healthy: fish, lettuce-and-tomato salad, rolls, fresh fruit, and a carafe of red wine. Bonventre, who supposedly didn’t like fish, ordered steak. The men ate their food and chatted. Time passed.

Galante put a cigar into his mouth.

Minutes before 2:45 p.m., the driver called the restaurant. James Galante wanted to know if his uncle was still there. He was. “I’ll be right over,” James said.

While the men were still seated out on the back patio, a blue Mercury Montenegro pulled up in front of the restaurant and double parked, blocking the street. Four men climbed out. One of them stayed in front of the restaurant beside the car watching the street while the other three headed inside.

Turano’s son, John, who was 17, was the first to see the three men -- all wearing ski masks -- burst inside the front door. One wore jeans and a T-shirt and carried a shotgun. He barked: "Don't move."

The next man was fat and had a large nose and hefted a pistol. The third was tall and thin.

“Keep your mouth shut,” shotgun man shouted, then told a companion, “In the back!” (Early reports say the man with the shotgun called the companion Sally.)

Constanza, who was also in the restaurant, heard her brother John shout, "Papa!”

Two of the gunmen sprinted through the restaurant toward the patio dining area in back while John bolted into a storeroom, where the family kept a pistol at the ready. He tried to slam the door behind him, only the fat man forced it open. John ran his hands along the shelf—the wrong shelf—feeling frantically for the pistol when the fat man fired a pistol and shot him.

Constanza ran out of the kitchen and collided with John, who was bleeding. He shoved her out of harm’s way. She crawled behind the refrigerator and stayed silent.

Constanza heard her father out in the garden ask, “What are you doing?”

Some would later speculate that, based on how they were seated, Galante and Coppolla had to have seen the gunmen wearing ski masks running toward them. Galante, suspected of involvement in 80 homicides, had once said, "No one will ever kill me. They wouldn't dare.”

The gunfire lasted less than a minute.

Only three of the five men sitting on the concrete patio behind the restaurant were shot at point-blank range that July afternoon.

When the fusillade ended, the gunmen swiftly ran back through the restaurant and out the front. Dashing out with them, unscathed, were Bonventre and Amato.

Galante, 69, was blown backward by the force of the shotgun blast, his chest riddled with bullets, his left eye blown out. His body sprawled in a heap near the table, his head resting on a curb, the cigar still clenched between his teeth. His blood slowly seeped into an iron-grated drain on the patio floor.

Coppolla, 40, was shot in the head and killed instantly.

Restaurant owner Turano, 48, was shot in the head and shoulder but didn’t die until he was in back of an ambulance en route to Wyckoff Heights Hospital.

Inside the restaurant, his son, John was shot twice in the back but survived.

Galante sprawled in a heap near the table
Detective lifts tablecloth covering a dead Lilo Galante.

When the getaway car was later found, police lifted prints from a middle and ring finger  from the inside driver’s window. They belonged to Santo Giordano.

Years later, using enhanced technology, police identified another print found in the getaway car, a palm print from Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato who was already a suspect because he was seen, immediately after the murder, by  FBI surveillance arriving at the Ravenite, the Little Italy social club then run by Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce. Stefano (Stevie Beef) Cannone, Bonanno consigliere, was  inside the club.

Bruno was seen talking to Dellacroce and then receiving a hero’s welcome.

Later, as per Bonanno wiseguy Frank Lino:

Bruno Indelicato was one of the masked shooters that afternoon. Bruno shot Joe Turano and Coppolla, according to what Bruno told Lino.

Russell Mauro, a Bonanno soldier tight with Sonny Red Indelicato, also had run onto the back patio. Mauro shot Galante.

Dominic (Big Trin) Trinchera was the masked man who stayed inside the restaurant.

Stationed outside the restaurant was Santo Giordano, who stood guard by the car and drove. Also outside the restaurant, tucked in a backup car parked discreetly somewhere nearby during the hit, were Joe Massino, Sonny Red Indelicato, J.B. Indelicato, and Phil Lucky Giaccone.

Bonanno wiseguy Russell Mauro
Russell Mauro

Year later, in 1986, the murder of Galante was included in the Commission Case. The government claimed that the murder had been Commission-sanctioned primarily because of Bruno's appearance at the Ravenite, which had been filmed by the FBI, and information from a witness about alleged Colombo boss Carmine Persico saying he had voted against killing Galante.

Fred DeChristopher was an insurance salesman married to Persico's cousin. He testified in Manhattan that Persico had discussed sharing a prison cell with Galante, who, Persico said, "was a friend and the top man in the Bonanno family.''

''And quite frankly, I voted against him getting hurt,'' the witness quoted Persico as telling him