Observations of An Ex-Cop in La La Land
ALUMNI PORTRAIT NO. 3
Horace "Tight Pants" Donato
refused to concede his waistline
had swollen to a size 40 after
years of devouring linguini. He
once shot a man who complained
he was hit in the eye by one of
Donato's burst pants buttons.
Consider the case of
Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca
By ANDY MURCIA
Paul The Waiter Ricca (1897-1972) was his Chicago Outfit name, but Paul De Luca Angelo Ciolo was his real name. When he was 20 he expertly sliced a young man to death back in Napoli, Italy. The young man, Emilio Porillo, was only 17 when he decided not to marry Riccas sister. Paul cut him up and watched the boy die in a garbage-strewn alley in Naples.
Some say Riccas sisters honor bit, was only his cover story and the killing was really a Mafia hit committed for a much less honorable reason. He only served two years in prison for the murder, and when he got out, he killed the witness who had testified against him--Vincenzo Capasso.
Ricca went on the lam winding his way through Europe eventually obtaining entry to the US through Ellis Island. Soon after arriving in New York, he moved to Chicago and got a job as a waiter at "Diamond" Joe Espositos Bella Napoli restaurant, hence his nickname "Paul the Waiter," a name Ricca detested. He claimed he managed the restaurant and was not a waiter.
Paul "The Waiter" Ricca
in a rare photograph.
Diners at Bella Napoli restaurant included Al Capone and other Outfit guys who all took a liking to Ricca. They say Paul subsequently set up Diamond Joe Esposito for a Capone hit for reasons unknown. (Maybe he refused to marry Paul's sister, too?) Paul soon quit his restaurant gig to become a bootlegger and a theatre manager of sorts, to wit, a striptease joint, owned by Capone. The best was yet to come for him.
Ricca eventually went on to more important jobs within the Outfit, and was soon acting as Capones emissary to the New York crime families. During his tenure Ricca had numerous meetings in New York and Atlantic City with the East Coast families.
My father, who was an NYPD Lieutenant Detective, told me that Ricca had had a violent argument in NYC with a lowly family member who insisted on calling him, The Waiter. This NY gangster would taunt Ricca by laughingly ordering him to pour him some more wine, calling him waiter man.
Shortly after these insults to Ricca, my father and his NYPD detectives discovered the nude torso of a body in a suitcase. It had been dumped in the NYC train station. The torso had been expertly cut off from the arms, legs and head of the person using a very sharp knife and other cutting instruments. The penis and testicles were also missing. Pop Murcia reminded me that Ricca was infamous for his expertise with a sharp knife and other cutting instruments. Further, the NY family member who insulted Ricca disappeared and was never heard from again. To this day I dont know if the NYPD ever identified the person belonging to the torso, but I know the murder was never pinned on Ricca.
That's a human torso wrapped up
and stuffed in that suitcase.
Investigators believe Paul "The
Waiter" Ricca packed the suitcase,
after slicing off his victim's head,
arms and legs.
I was reminded of this torso incident while watching a recent re-run of "The Sopranos" TV series in which two of Tony Sopranos capos were depicted in a butcher shop, cutting up a body for disposal. I found my fathers photograph of the torso case. Maybe the "Sopranos" writers heard of this old torso case and it triggered their writing of that episode?
In 1927 Al Capone was best man at Riccas wedding. But when Capone went to prison, Ricca distanced himself from Capone, as he didnt like the notoriety Capone generated. Ricca had seen enough to know that being public was extremely dangerous to his occupation.
Many in the know say that it was Paul Ricca who took what were mostly disorganized criminal activities and turned them into organized crime (at least in Chicago). He was said to be a man of refinement, well read, an interesting speaker and, yes, a cold-blooded killer!
Its been said that Ricca had much respect for "decent" women and that he rarely used any curse words, but thought nothing of using them as prostitutes in the Outfit's whorehouses. One authority claims this convicted murderer was once a dinner guest at the Roosevelt White House. Various police authorities state that Ricca was also suspected in more than 55 murders during his long career in crime.
Some self-proclaimed experts only credit Ricca for being number one after taking over from Frank Nitti (1940-1943), but others credit Ricca with running the Outfit more than 40 years. The Waiter was a private person, avoiding publicity at all costs. He worked well behind the other number ones he gave his blessings to, such as Frank Nitti, Tony Accardo, and Sam Giancana. But it was only Accardo who remained his most trusted life-long friend.
Paul The Waiter Ricca became number one after Frank Nitti committed suicide. Thats right suicide. Nitti is, perhaps, the only well documented suicide in the history of the Outfit. After Nitti was indicted for income tax invasion (and it looked doubtful that he would beat the rap), he knew his time had come. Insiders say Ricca would not take the risk that Nitti might talk in exchange for a deal with the G-men. Perhaps Nitti knew this, too, and figured Ricca would or had already ordered his death. So Frank Nitti loaded his revolver, walked to the railroad tracks near his home and blew his brains out. Independent, credible eyeball witnesses observed Nitti buy the farm in broad daylight.
Ricca did a few years in the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth after he and others were convicted of shaking down Hollywood motion picture studios via the Outfits infiltration into their union affiliations. This landmark case revealed to authorities the new direction the Outfit was taking towards infiltrating legitimate business. A guy like Jimmy Hoffa would soon be linked to these not so good fellas. With the Ricca era, we can see clearly that gangsters no longer had to be of Italian decent to be in the Chicago Outfit. As you will see, it was expended to every nationality and race in time to come.
I never met Paul The Waiter Ricca. He died in his sleep of natural causes on October 11, 1972. I know he left behind a legacy of lessons for the new Outfit leaders to learn from in due time. The days of machine gun blasts and dangerous extortionary practices were narrowing and being replaced by well organized, quasi-legal ventures into legitimate business enterprise. Maybe Ricca really was a manager and not a waiter as he often argued, if only because he managed to educate the Outfit members so very well. In Chicago, except for Giancana, Outfit Bosses tended to shy away from the limelight. This most definitely was a Ricca teach-by-example lesson.
Next up in my Gangster College series will be a man who totally subscribed to the Waiters teachings, none other than Big Tuna himself Tony Joe Batters Accardo, arguably the most successful Chicago Outfit Boss of all time. Hes the only Outfit boss schooled by both Al Scarface Capone and Paul The Waiter Ricca. They say Accardo was the wisest of them allhe never spent a night in prison. Stay tuned.
©2003 by Andy Murcia. The caricature of Andy Murcia is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. The gangster cartoon is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. The photos are from official sources.
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