The End: Carmine Galante, Godfather Of Heroin Trafficking, Conclusion

At about 12:45 p.m. on the stifling hot and humid afternoon of Thursday, July 12, 1979, Carmine Galante, 69, was driven by his nephew James to the Joe & Mary Italian-American Restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section.

That part of Brooklyn was a fading Bonanno stronghold. Galante often visited the restaurant, which was owned by his cousin, Giuseppe Turano, 48. Turano had tickets for a Saturday flight to Italy to meet his family on vacation. Galante went to the restaurant that day to have a “bon voyage” luncheon with him.

The two men liked to eat in the open air, so a table had been set up on the restaurant’s back patio amid grape vines and tomato plants, which lent a modest pastoral setting to that small patch of Brooklyn.

The nondescript restaurant, which consisted of two interior dining rooms, had seen better days. Dingy yellow curtains hung from the windows, lemon-colored oilcloths were draped over the tables. A Frank Sinatra album cover was propped on the front counter. Inside the entryway was a picture of the Last Supper. Another wall was covered with fading autographed photos of Italian movie stars and the Argentine-American actor Fernando Lamas.

Angelo Presinzano, Lilo's longtime confidant also showed up for lunch, but left early, complaining of stomach problems.

While Galante and Turano had lunch, Galante’s handpicked zip bodyguards, Baldo Amato and Cesare Bonventre, wearing thick leather jackets despite the stifling, blowtorch heat of the day, arrived and ate lunch inside the restaurant. With them was Leonardo (Nardo) Coppolla, 40, a reputed drug dealer and close associate of Galante’s. Bonventre and Amato often ate at the restaurant, but Nardo showing up was a surprise: Since February, he and Turano had been on the outs over a dispute involving Turano’s wife. The two no longer spoke, and Nardo had been banned from setting foot in the restaurant. The two zips had somehow persuaded Nardo to join them, as investigators would learn, coming to believe that Nardo’s attendance that day likely had been ordered.

At some point, Turano invited the trio sitting inside to join him and Galante at the large rectangular table in the sunny courtyard behind the restaurant.

At about 2:45 p.m., three masked gunmen strode into the restaurant. One of them shouted, “In the back, Sally.”

John Turano, the 17-year-old son of the owners, shouted a warning to his father before dashing into a storeroom near the kitchen.

John’s sister, Constanza, heard her father on the back patio suddenly cry out, “What are you doing?” right before the gunfire erupted.

The gunmen had entered the patio through an open door and, standing about six feet away from their victims, opened fired.

Three patrons were eating inside the restaurant when the gunmen arrived and fled ahead of the killers, whose getaway was witnessed by nearby storekeepers and neighbors from the windows of three‐story tenements overlooking the street.

“I was walking down the stairs when I heard sounds like cherry bombs going off,” said Lisa Santiago, whose apartment overlooked the patio. She counted six blasts.

The proprietor of a business nearby said: “I heard a whole lot of shots. I thought it was some firecrackers. When I saw a guy with a rifle, all I did was come back in my store. I didn’t want to get shot.”

Joe and Mary Italian-American Restaurant
Scene of the hit: Joe and Mary Italian-American Restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section.

“There was no warning whatsoever,” said one police officer. “(The three gunmen) just walked in calmly and began shooting.”

As they left, one of the killers shot the younger Turano twice in the back as he was scrambling around in the storage room.

The killers escaped in a blue 1979 Mercury that was parked outside the restaurant with a driver waiting at the wheel. The Mercury, which had been reported stolen in Ozone Park, Queens, on June 13, was recovered not far from the restaurant about three hours later.

Half an hour after the shootings, in Little Italy, an NYPD team surveilling the Ravenite Social Club, the chief hangout of Gambino underboss Aniello Dellacroce, spotted a tan Lincoln pull up outside the club and double park. They watched as the driver—whom they recognized as Bonanno soldier Anthony (Bruno) Indelicato—pulled a pistol from under the dashboard and tucked it in his waistband before stepping out of the car. Other men arrived, including Indelicato’s father, Sonny Red, and his father’s brother J.B. Standing in the entrance to the club at the time was Bonanno consigliere Stefano “Stevie Beef” Cannone. The Bonanno wiseguys were all welcomed and hugged by Dellacroce.

Early reports on what happened outside the Ravenite that day also noted that Indelicato looked distracted and appeared to be sporting a black eye and walking with a limp. A parabolic microphone aimed through an opening in the lookout window recorded Indelicato saying, “This has got out of hand, and this has got to stop.”

The police said the slayings had been carried out with swift and ruthless precision. By one account, two men used a black Cadillac limousine—apparently a crash car—to block off traffic on nearby Jefferson Street while five others pulled up outside the restaurant in one or two cars, variously described as a blue Mercury and a gray late‐model car. A Deputy Inspector said that two others had stayed outside at the front door, standing lookout and waving guns at passers‐by.

The back patio had been transformed into a gruesome tableaux. Galante, blasted in the face and chest, had been hurled backward landing onto his back, his left arm slung across his chest and his right hand at his belt. The cigar Galante was puffing when the barrage erupted was still clenched In his teeth when police walked onto the blood‐spattered patio.

Near the sprawled and bloody victims, a half‐finished lettuce and tomato salad, some rolls, a peach and half‐finished carafe of red wine were still standing atop the floral‐pattern oilcloth on the table.

Turano died in back of the ambulance on the way to a nearby hospital.

Joseph Massino
Joseph (Big Joey) Massino

An enterprising photographer parked himself on a nearby roof and immortalized the carnage. Closeups of Galante’s bloodied bullet-riddled visage and upper body appeared on the front page of various tabloids.

According to forensic experts, Galante, who had been facing the door, had been hit by four shotgun blasts, totaling about 80 pellets, which had been fired at such close range, paper wadding was embedded in his body. (They said the cigar had to have been put in Lilo’s mouth prior to the shooting, meaning NYPD Detective Joe Coffey had not inserted it afterward.)

Turano, the host and co-owner of the restaurant, had been hit with a shotgun blast at point-blank range, was shot on the right side of his head, and his right shoulder had been blown off, according to a witness in the hospital emergency room where he was pronounced dead.

Coppolla had been hit by shotgun pellets and six bullets, several of which had been fired into the back of his head. Coppolla’s face was blown away by a shotgun blast, the police said, and he also died instantly.

From the different ammunition recovered, investigators knew the killers had used five guns—two shotguns and three pistols. Since witnesses had seen only three ski-masked intruders, that cast the spotlight on the two bodyguards, both of whom had suspiciously disappeared after the shooting. Additionally, based on eyewitness accounts, two men who looked suspiciously like Lilo’s “bodyguards” were seen departing the restaurant after the shooting in tandem with the three masked gunmen This duo had been spotted walking down the street and driving off in a Lincoln that had been parked there.

So from the beginning, law enforcement suspected Amato and Bonventre were in on the hit. In time, based on informant testimony, they also believed that the two zips deliberately steered Coppola into the buzz saw: The plotters wanted the hardcore Galante loyalist out of the way to preclude retaliation.

Investigators also believed Lilo’s longtime adjutant, Angelo Presinzano, also had been marked for death that afternoon, but narrowly avoided execution by leaving the lunch early.

The day after the hit, detectives visited Presinzano at his home on South 10th Street, in Brooklyn, near the East River.

“We’re here to talk to you about Mr. Galante’s killing,” one of the cops said.

“Come back when I’m dead,” Little Moe replied, slamming the door in their face.

They wouldn't have had to wait long as Presinzano suffered a fatal heart attack and died a few days later.

Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco
Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco, undercover in Bonanno family.

Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone, still undercover in the Bonanno family, playing the role of up and coming associate Donnie Brasco, was in Miami when Galante was killed. The morning after the murders, he was on the phone with Benjamin (Lefty Two-Guns) Ruggiero, who told him to get a New York newspaper.

“There’s gonna be big changes,” Lefty told Brasco.
At a face-to-face meeting soon after, Lefty updated him (as well as the FBI): “Rusty Rastelli is the new boss even though he is still in the can. We’re gonna be under Sonny Black. He was made captain.”
Dominick (Sonny Black) Napolitano’s promotion was part of Rastelli’s larger reorganization of the Bonanno family after Galante was removed. (Pundits viewed Rastelli’s post-Galante reorganization of the Bonanno family as a master stroke, if the imprisoned boss’s only). Rastelli ensured that the people in key positions all supported him. He also showed the street that he accepted the zips.

Those who supported Galante, especially underboss Nicholas (Nicky Glasses) Marangello and capo Mike Sabella—who ran the Casa Bella restaurant where Galante held meetings—were marked for death initially, but then  were only busted down in rank ultimately. 

Those who remained loyal to Rastelli and those who got their hands dirty getting rid of Galante were rewarded with promotions. Cesare Bonventre, Bruno Indelicato, and Joe Massino were  bumped to capo. Sal Catalano was made “street boss of the zips,” as per Lefty Two-Guns.

To be continued

Writing the final part of this series was taking forever, so I had to split this installment in half....