By The Other Guy | September 15, 2020
Francesco Scalisi- aka “Frank Scalise” “Don Ciccio” was an old-time original born in Palermo, Sicily, back on September 23, 1893. He had four brothers, all of whom would join Frank in the rackets to one degree or another, with at least three of them becoming formally inducted mafiosi.
Side Note: His brothers were named Giuseppe (Joe), Giacomo (Jack), Giovanni (John), and Salvatore (Turiddo).
Upon immigrating to this country the Scalisi family settled in the Bronx, which would become their base of underworld operations.
Frank soon married. He and his wife Joan would raise six daughters and a stepson at their Crotona, Bronx residence. They later relocated to a three bedroom home at 211 Kirby Street on City Island.
In the early years, he listed his employment as the owner of a butcher shop. This was a business that many other Mangano/Anastasia members and blood relatives were involved in.
The Castellano, Scarpulla, and Masotto families were all deeply enmeshed in this trade.
By at least the late 1940s, he officially listed his employment as a stockholder and the vice-president of the Mario & DiBono Plastering Company of 40-03 National Avenue in the Corona section of Queens. A major building contractor.
Side Note: This company was started by an old mafioso who also hailed from Palermo and was a soldier in the Family. His son was Louie DiBono, who later became a soldier himself until John Gotti ordered his execution in the garage of the World Trade Center. A murder that helped earn Gotti a life sentence.
In time, Scalisi would become one of the most important and powerful members of the Mafia in New York.
In fact, he would rise to become the interim boss over his own borgata until a powerplay saw him accede the boss position to Vincent Mangano, and later to the Calabrian Albert Anastasia. Scalisi would thereafter still exert power for many years as the “underboss” of the Family.
He was a close associate of the murdered Salvatore D’Aquila and his allies who were said to have headed the family previous to Scalisi.
Based in the Bronx like Scalisi, the two men were thought to have been close. He was also close with the Gambino brothers, Carlo and Paolo, who were also important mafiosi.
Additional close associates were soldiers Frank Luciano, Matthew Cuomo, Morris Barra, Giacomo Scarpulla, Giovanni Maugeri, Salvatore Caneba, and Sebastiano Bellanca.
Another little known “sleeper” but very important member was Antonino (Nino) Conte of Corona, Queens.
Conte was the father of future Gambino capo Pasquale Conte and another owner of a string of meat markets as well.
Nino Conte was also suspected of being a low key capo who was active in extensive alien and heroin smuggling, two trades that he taught to his son.
In future years, Patsy Conte would be exposed as an international drug smuggler, and a multimillionaire.
For years, he hid behind his facade as a food chain executive of Keyfood Supermarkets, a popular chain of large supermarkets that stretched across the city…but it all started with his dad Nino back in Corona.
The Scalisi brothers primarily operated from the Crescent Avenue section of the Bronx, Arthur Avenue, and others surrounding areas. They were heavily engaged in liquor bootlegging, money counterfeiting, the Italian numbers lottery, shakedowns and extortion rackets.
He became a major force within New York’s construction industry and was suspected of controlling several labor union locals that were used as tools to extort contractors.
Scalici’s company was also central to subcontract work in the building of several major construction projects such as those at Idlewild and LaGuardia Airports, and various Manhattan skyscrapers.
Additionally, Frank was highly suspected of heading an extensive heroin importation and wholesale distribution network in partnership with other top hoodlums such as Lucky Luciano and Carlo Gambino.
In fact, the FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) had recorded his travel back and forth to Italy and Sicily numerous times where he was in steady contact with other mafiosi suspected of drug trafficking.
Don Cheech was even photographed with Luciano and their wives in Italy, while the Scalisi’s were there on vacation.
Many young Anastasia/Scalisi and Luciano/Genovese members were tied to this particular drug network.
Despite being knee-deep in the rackets as a leader for many decades, and having survived the Castellammarese War of the early 1930s, he had a benign police arrest record.
Identified by NYCPD # E-5826, it only showed entries for a 1920 burglary charge, and a 1954 vagrancy arrest.
On June 17, 1957, at age 63, Scalisi abruptly came to the end of his long career.
In a scene reminiscent of The Godfather movie, two gunmen cornered him inside an Arthur Avenue fruit and vegetable market in his old Bronx neighborhood and pumped him full of bullets until he collapsed to the sawdust floor of the produce store.
He was hit with four shots that penetrated his cheek, neck, and shoulder. Don Cheech was dead as he hit the floor. He was said to have been picking peaches at the time and didn’t even notice his assailants approaching.
Several weeks later, Don Cheech’s brother Joe Scalisi disappeared and was reported as missing. Word on the street was that he had taken his brother’s murder very badly, and had hotheadedly sworn revenge against the killers.
Upon word getting back to Albert Anastasia, he then ordered Joe’s murder as well.
Side Note: Motives for Scalisi’s killing have run the gamut from him commercializing Cosa Nostra by selling membership “buttons” for up to $50,000 each to aspiring recruits,to his narcotics trafficking, to an internal power play…but regardless of the genesis, both he and his brother make their maker.
At least one other brother Jack, retired back to his native Sicily where he was said to have owned and operated a gas station.
The location was said to have been along a key road leading in and out of Palermo, so it was a suspected sound moneymaker. Giacomo was also suspected of having reaffiliated with his old Sicilian brethren in operating local rackets.
Don Cheech Scalisi had the name, and played the mafia game as well as anybody for upwards of forty years. But his time had come as it usually does for mafiosi who operate at that level.
His name is forever etched in underworld infamy along with his contemporaries of this bloody era. Mangano, Anastasia, Reina, Maranzano, Masseria and Catania among many others.
Until the next time…”The Other Guy”
This article was originally posted “here“