Joe Bruno on the Mob – Forty Years After Joe Gallo Hit, Wife Reminisces. And I Remember.

        It was a day I’ll never forget as long as I live.

            On April 6th 1972, a Thursday night, I was working as a computer programmer for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company on 23rd Street between Madison and Park Avenue’s. I was working the swing shift, which was from 3:05 pm to 11:10 pm. After work, I jumped on the subway (IRT) and got off at Canal Street, near Center Street. At the time I had moved from Baxter Street in the 6th Ward and now lived in Knickerbocker Village in the 4th Ward, about ½ mile away from Little Italy where I grew up. I wanted to stop in my old neighborhood to get a bite to eat, then walk the short distance home.

When I had the urge to eat shellfish, I usually ate at the Lime House, which was on the corner of Mott and Bayard. Or maybe I’d stop at Vincent’s Clam Bar, which was on the corner of Mott and Hester. But this night, for some reason, I decided to stop at Umberto’s, on the corner of Mulberry and Hester, just down the block from Vincent’s. I had been at Umberto’s a few times before, and the food wasn’t bad, so I thought I’d give it another shot.

I guess I arrived there around 11:45- 12 midnight. I was by myself, so I sat at the counter and grabbed a quick bite to eat. I don’t remember what I ate, but it was probably either mussels or scungilli; or maybe a combination of both. And I probably had a beer to wash down the grub. I was in and out of Umberto’s in maybe 45 minutes; which means by the time I walked home to Knickerbocker, it was about 1 am.

I owned Bruno’s Parking Lot at 31 Monroe Street, right across the street from Knickerbocker, which meant I had to open up about 7 a.m. It was strictly a monthly parking lot at the time, so after a few hours of re-arranging cars, I was free to do whatever.

However, as soon as I opened up the parking lot, the buzz was all over the 4th Ward that Joey Gallo had been killed in the early morning hours (around 4 a.m. – about three hours after I had left)  in Umberto’s in the 6th Ward. Hearing that sent chills down my spine.

At about 11 a.m., I walked back to the 6th Ward, and I soon found out that the neighborhood was crawling with cops and detectives trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

To this day, nobody has ever been arrested for the murder of Joe Gallo. In a recent book, “I Heard You Paint Houses”: Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa,”  Sheeran claims he was the lone gunman who killed Gallo, and he did so at the direction of mobster Russell Buffalino. Sheeran also claims he pulled the trigger on Jimmy Hoffa, and in my opinion, that is more likely than him doing the Gallo hit.

Sheeran is a 6-foot-4-inch Irishman, who would stick out like a sore thumb in Little Italy. It is almost incomprehensible to believe that someone looking like Sheeran could somehow sneak into the neighborhood, slip into Umberto’s and shoot Gallo, then escape in a getaway car.

There were immediate whispers in the neighborhood about who did what to whom, but then the supposed cast of characters constantly changed, and quite frankly, I think everyone was just guessing and blowing smoke. Nobody knew anything, even the police, and the  mystery of who killed Joe Gallo is just that: a mystery to this day.

The thing I’m most thankful for is that I didn’t go neighborhood  bar-hopping (which I sometimes did) before I stopped at Umberto’s that fateful night. Otherwise I might have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And that’s never a good place to be.


You can read the article below at:

I put a fur coat over my daughter and told her to play dead: Mob wife relives moment her husband of three weeks was shot dead

By Matt Blake

As her husband’s assassins burst into Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy and opened fire, Sina Essary thought only of her daughter Lisa’s life.

The young newlywed flung her expensive fur coat over the terrified ten-year-old and told her to play dead as bullets whizzed overhead.

But the bullets were not meant for her or Lisa, they were meant for her husband, the notorious New York gangster Joey ‘The Blond’ Gallo.

‘It was very dramatic,’ Ms Essary told the New York Post as she recalled the chaos. ‘I had a fur coat on her and I covered her with it completely and told her to just play dead.’

Yelling obscenities, Gallo had drawn his handgun and flipped a table for cover launched into a ferocious gunfight alongside his bodyguard Peter ‘Pete the Greek’ Diapoulas, who was hit in the buttox as he dove for cover.

He followed as they fled into the night, but had been mortally wounded and fell, still swearing, into a pool of his own blood. He died soon after in hospital.

The murder of Joey Gallo, also known in New York’s criminal underworld as ‘Crazy Joe’, was to become one of New York’s most notorious Mafia ‘hits’ of the 1970s.

And although it has been 40 years since, Ms Essary, now 70, says she can still remember it as though it were yesterday.

‘I have PTSD, although we didn’t call it that back then,’ she said from her farm in Nashville, Tennessee. ‘Even now, whenever I hear a car engine misfire, I jump.’

The couple, who had only been married for three weeks, were out for Gallo’s 43rd birthday, and had enjoyed an evening at the Copacabana nightclub with friends and family before dining at Umberto’s.

Then, at about 5am, just as they were about to tuck into seconds of scungilli, shrimp and pasta, the four gunmen burst in, sending diners and tables flying.

The gunmen were working on the orders of New York’s feared Colombo family, with whom Gallo had been in a long-running feud.

The feud culminated when the Colombo family ‘Godfather’, Joe Colombo was maimed in a hit that Gallo was believed to have masterminded.

He was also reputed to have been one of the shooters in the infamous 1957 barber-shop slaying of boss Albert Anastasia.

Gallo was shot five times.

Gallo epitomised mobster chic. He was an anti-hero, philosopher and painter with lofty ambitions for his gang that went way beyond the confines of Little Italy’s smokey bar and club scene that other crime families seemed to favour.

He had started out in the crime business as a low-level enforcer and hitman for the Brooklyn-based Profaci family.

But he became disillusioned and branched out, making profits in dice and card gambling rackets.

Then in 1961 he was jailed for ten years for extortion. While behind bars, he devoured books on all matters, with a particular penchant for French existentialist philosophy by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.

There, he also learned to paint and became a self-proclaimed expert on art.

Flamboyant, charming and well-read, he quickly ingratiated himself with New York’s rich and famous upon his release, and became a regular on the city’s vibrant social scene.

He was also known for his sharp wit, and once quipped that the carpet in future Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s office was perfect for a craps game at a hearing into Mafia practices before the US Senate.

He earned the nickname ‘Joey the Blond’ on account of his bushy blond chest hair.

But he was also an ambitious mobster who found himself in a bloodthirsty turf war with rival gangs, often holed up in his tenement-block hideout armed with shotguns and grenades in an all-out street war.

The death of one of his henchmen, Joseph Gioiello, was inspiration for a scene in the movie ‘The Godfather’. When Gioiello was murdered, his clothes were stuffed with fish and tossed outside a favorite Gallo restaurant from a moving car.

Gallo met Ms Essary, then an aspiring actress, in 1971 after his release from prison.

‘He was very romantic,’ said Essary. ‘He would come home with flowers and gifts. I wasn’t used to that.’

During his funeral, Gallo’s sister Carmella, who was also at Umberto’s on the night of April 7 1972, declared over his open coffin: ‘The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey.’

But nobody was ever charged with Gallo’s murder. His death became the subject of Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy’s 1976 song ‘Joey’.


4 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – Forty Years After Joe Gallo Hit, Wife Reminisces. And I Remember.”

  1. Joe,

    Did you know a Fred Bender when working at the Met?

    Ken C.

    • Don’t think so Ken. At the time, there were 18,000 people working in two sepperate buildings from 24-25th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. I worked in Electronic Data Processing on the 20th floor of the north building. I later was a systems analyst in the South Building. I also played varsity basketball at the Met(1967-69).

      • Thanks, it was a long shot that you knew Fred. He worked in same area at the Met. The reason I was attracted to your blog in the first place is that I’m a close friend of Sina Essary. Have you ever met or
        talked to Sina?

  2. No. I never met or saw her. I tired my best to stay away from people like Joe Gallo, even though I was surrounded by them for 48 years in Little Italy. Some were my friends and some I grew up with. But their business was their business and I never got involved.

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