"What're You Gonna Do Now, Tough Guy?"
The men gathered around the bar where platters of prosciutto, salami, capicola and provolone cheese, large steaming trays of baked ziti and sausage and peppers, and white bakery boxes of Italian pastries were laid out. It was a crisp fall day in 1983 at a tavern in the Down Neck section of Newark, New Jersey, and the invited guests for this private affair were in high spirits. After all, the party was a belated mob homecoming for a friend who had been away for a long time. There were hearty handshakes and hugs and slaps on the back for the guest of honor, Michael Coppola, a 37-year-old soldier in the New Jersey faction of the Genovese crime family. Coppola had recently been released from a federal prison where he had served almost five years on a 1979 conviction for conspiracy and extortion. Short and unassuming, Coppola was a valued member of the family, and now he was back in business.
According to court records, the celebration had started at lunchtime, and the tavern was closed to the public. The invited guests included members of both the Genovese and Lucchese crime families. One newly inducted Lucchese soldier, Tommy Ricciardi, remembered that party very well because it was one of the first times he was introduced to the other wiseguys as amico nostro (a friend of ours) instead of amico mio (a friend of mine). Amico nostro is the term made members of the Mafia use amongst themselves to indicate whos a real wiseguy and whos not. Tall and trim, the thirty-one-year-old Ricciardi had finally been inducted into the mob, and he congratulated Coppola along with all the others. Ricciardi was one of them now.
Another Lucchese soldier, Michael Taccetta, was also at that party. Taccetta, a heavyset man whose dark sunken eyes always looked tired, liked to be thought of as an intellectual. He would often quoteand sometimes misquotefrom Macchiavellis The Prince to anyone who would listen in an attempt to impress. Taccetta introduced Ricciardi to Coppola at the party, and later, after the cold cuts and cannoli had been consumed, and the crowd had thinned, the three men took a table away from the bar, so that they could talk in private. The conversation soon turned to the business of organized crime, specifically past work, the mob euphemism for murder. Old timers in the mob rarely talked of such things, believing that whats done is done, dont ever bring it up again, but these younger members made an exception to that rule and talked freely.
Contract hits werent all the same, they agreed. Some killings have little affect on the shooter, Coppola said, but some you do with tears in your eyes.
The men nodded in agreement, quietly recalling their own experiences. Taccetta broke the silence. Whatre you gonna do now, tough guy? he quoted, looking straight at Coppola.
Copyright 2001, Anthony Bruno. All Rights Reserved