Book Review–My Father, My Don – By Tony Napoli with Charles Messina


Saying Tony “Nap” Napoli has had an interesting life is like saying water is sometimes wet.

In his autobiography “My Father, My Don” co-written by Charles Messina, Tony Nap opens the book with a lurid tale starting with, “It was a cold November afternoon, in 1993 when, in a feverish burst of fury, I pulled the young punks pants down to his ankles and cut his balls off with a switchblade that he had stupidly pulled on me.”

The young punk he disfigured had tried to molest Tony Nap’s daughter in her high school in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. But this incident became a watershed in Tony Nap’s life, because he knew his rage had been fueled by severe alcohol abuse that had consumed his entire life up to that point. It also was the beginning of the end of his alcoholism. At his trial, he was “not guilty” on five counts and found “guilty” of a single count of misdemeanor assault. This was as a result of a shrewd defense by his lawyer Barry Slotnik, who had convinced the jury Tony Nap was an service veteran who had been “damaged psychologically from the stress and agony of combat training.”

Tony Nap was sentenced to 39 months in a VA hospital for psychiatric treatment and alcohol detox. Tony Nap said, “ It was just what I needed and a long time coming. I would enter that hospital a free man. I would leave a new man.”

Tony Nap was the son of Jimmy “Nap” Napoli a legendary Mafia boss, who was the mob’s main conduit to the cash cow of Las Vegas. Jimmy Nap went so far back in the mob he associated with the legendary Frankie Yale from Brooklyn and even Al “Scarface” Capone. Jimmy Nap’s base of operations was a social club in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and also at a table in the legendary Crisci’s Restaurant, which Jimmy Nap frequented almost every day.

Try as he could, Jimmy Nap could never control his wild and alcohol-fueled son Tony, and Tony went from one predicament to another, culminating in his assault of a Police Captain, who had tried to shake down Tony’s nightclub in Union City, New Jersey. Tony Nap was facing big time in prison and although his father had huge connections, he feared his son would do serious time in jail.

Jimmy Nap banished Tony Nap from New York, telling him, “All I want you to do is get on the next bus out of New York. Go somewhere. Anywhere. Far Away. And don’t come back until I tell you too. Don’t call. Don’t send no letters. Just go away. Disappear. When the time is right, you’ll hear from me.”

The next thing Tony Nap knew, he was holed up in the dirt-road town of Tucumcari, New Mexico, Population 3500, light years away from the bright lights of New York City. He worked as a boxer for a Carnival, bartender and any other job where he could make a buck. He spent time in prison there for beating up three men who had raped a girlfriend of his, and for unwittingly being involved in a gas station robbery with two local hicks who had less teeth than brains and they didn’t have much of either.

He spent three long years in New Mexico, before he disobeyed his father and called home. His Aunt Rae answered the phone and told him in his absence, his beloved mother had passed away and that his father had been looking for him to tell him the news, but could not locate him.

Tony Nap returned home to find his father now married to a woman 27 years younger than his father. This did not sit well with Tony Nap. But what could he do? His father was his father, but he was also his boss – his Don.

Jimmy Nap gave his son business after business, responsibility after responsibility, and Tony Nap was able to screw up one after another. Tony Nap landed a big job in Las Vegas as his father’s representative and as a result he robbed elbows with every star entertainer in the business including Frank Sinatra, who was a frequent drinking partner.

Jimmy Nap was arrested and convicted on Rico charges in 1978 and he gave his son control of his gambling operations in Brooklyn. That didn’t go too well either and when Jimmy Nap was released in 1985, his gambling empire was a shell of what it used to be.

Soon after his father release, Tony Nap was arrested too on a Rico charge by his family’s nemesis Rudy Giuliani. It was set-up seen through by the jury and Tony Nap was acquitted.

As he was walking out of the courthouse a free man, Tony Nap said Giuliani stood by the back door of the courtroom and growled, “Napoli, I’ll get you next time.”

Soon before Jimmy Nap died, he spoke to his son about the reasons his gambling empire had gone under. In fact, Jimmy Nap had dissolved his gambling operations completely, telling his son, “It’s all over with now. All debts have been settled. The last bets have been put in. The windows are closed. I turned everything over to the west side.”

As for his people who had cheated and turned on Jimmy Nap, he told his son, “I knew all the while what was going on with them, misusing my money, running around like the degenerates they are. But you, I can’t figure you out. How the hell do you get by?”

Tony Nap told his father, “How do you think? I get by because I’m your son. That’s how I always got by.”

Tony Nap said, “That wasn’t the last thing I said to my father, but I’d like to believe that it was.”

All in all, this book is a must read for those who want to get a glimpse of the inner workings of the mob. The good. The bad. And the extremely ugly. There is no glorification of a life of crime, violence and heavy-duty drinking.

As of the book’s writing. Tony Nap has been sober for 15 years. He spends his time working with Veterans at VA Hospitals, helping them get VA benefits that they deserve. He also assists widows and dependent children of 100% disabled veterans. He helps them fill out the paperwork, so they can collect the proper compensation they are entitled too.

For most of his life, Tony Nap was not a very good man. But now he is more intent on giving rather than receiving.

If “My Father, My Don” proves anything, it proves that’s it never too late to straighten out your life out and become a productive citizen and a God-fearing person.

Good luck to you, Tony Nap. Maybe you will finally find salvation.


11 Responses to “Book Review–My Father, My Don – By Tony Napoli with Charles Messina”

  1. Yes – it is always better to give than receive – right? AT least Tony learned his lesson. You are a great writer Joe Bruno!!

  2. This article and the other articles in this series could only have been written by someone with a keen insight into the underworld of the mob. Joe Bruno’s style matches the subject perfectly. Kudos to Bruno.

  3. i grew up in knickerbocker village and moved away from the area in 1976…i believe joe bruno had a car service on monroe st….and had a friend of mine (bob riggio) work for him for a ttime….i, like joe bruno, have many stories, too many of which require time to recount and commit to paper….but they are starting to be forgotten and the end of this chapter of street heritage is disappearing..i would like to share some of the common stories and offer opportunity for collaboration…did you say screenplay???

  4. R. Valenza Says:

    After just learning of my biological family, I also found out that my birth grandmother was Jimmy Nap’s sister. So, I bought Tonys book and hopefully learn more about my family.

  5. I was a steady afternoon customer at Crisci’s from the 60’s until the 90’s. Charlie Criscii , sy, Armand, Vincent the Priest!!! Mike the Chef–all great guys.
    Monsignor Vetro ate there often, and the police made it off limits to ordinary cops. Judges,, attorneys, tons of businessmen like me kept the place cooking. Louie Nizer was there often. So was Colonel Bill ???, sorry can’t remember his last name. He was a DA who became a very hot defense atty.
    once I needed to change the time of my trash pickup which necessitated changing Waste Companies–an impossibility in those days. Charlie Crisci handled it smoothly and at no cost for me. One day a new garbage company came to my office! Said they were my new garbage men, and asked what I was paying the old guy. “Fine,” they said, “same price.”
    It was all a hand shake.
    When Rudi threw out the “Mafia” the national company that took over my stop DOUBLED the monthly charge!

  6. Addition: best entrée– Filet Mignon Sorrentino–a real treat. Best dessert–Crisci’s cheesecake.

    Another personality. “Buddy” ex- pugilist… Charlie’s funeral–front rows filled with nuns in habit. Back rows a contingent of the “boys.”

    Before WW2, A famous quarterback’s father was involved in a murder on Moore Street in a garage. He walked due to the efforts of some of Crisci’s regulars and the lack of efforts on the part of some of Crisci’s other regulars from the DA’s office.

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