Joe Bruno on the Mob – Andrea Giovino – Part One
Numerous women have been seduced by mobsters; have been nothing but eye candy to show off in front of other thugs, on booze and drug-fueled nights on the town. These women have been treated like Queens, then beat up and cast to the curb, without even a kind word or a penny compensation for months, and sometimes years of meritorious service to the cause.
Very few of these women have defied mobsters and lived to tell about it. One woman who did survive the mob world is Andrea Giovino, who endured not one, but three rocky relationships with notorious gangsters. When she was caught in a tangled web and facing big-time in the slammer, Andrea successfully defied and bullied the New York Attorney’s Office. Andrea is now living a secure life, prospering in the legitimate world.
This is her story.
Andrea, the sixth oldest of ten children, was born to Dolly and Frank Silvestri, at 689 Second Street (called by the family just “689”), between Avenue F and Ditmars Avenue in Brooklyn. Her father was a hard-working truck driver, who gambled heavily on three-legged horses and sports teams who inevitable came in last in their division. Andrea’s mother, Dolly, was a five-foot-three-inch spitfire, who gambled as much as her husband (maybe more), and cursed worse than a drunken sailor on leave in Times Square. The family gambling problem inevitably led to an incessant shortage of food in the Silvestri household. When Andrea was only five, Dolly forced her to become a sneak thief, which provided Dolly’s sizable family with their early morning nutrition.
These excursions started at 5 AM, when Dolly would wake her daughter, dress her properly, and then point her to, and out the front door. Andrea knew what to do next: steal whatever she could get her tiny hands on from outside the local businesses, and then run like the dickens back home.
Andrea wrote in her book Divorced From the Mob – My Journey From Organized Crime to Independent Woman, “My mother was smart. She knew something about these early morning raids. One: at 5 AM, the deliverymen had just made their rounds. That meant sitting out on the sidewalk in front of Friedman’s, the neighborhood corner store, were stacks of trays with bread, and donuts, milk and other food. Two: Since I was the youngest and a girl, sending me made the most sense. After all, who would want to see a little girl arrested for stealing food for her family?”
Always in the red, Dolly was eager to make an illegal buck any way she could. Using her parlor as a showroom, Dolly sold stolen goods, which she bought off neighborhood thieves for a small fraction of their numerical value, then resold them at a nice profit. In addition, if a neighborhood thug needed a place to stow his guns, or his ill-gotten gains, Dolly’s happy home would accommodate him too; for a fair price, of course. Dolly also hosted illegal dice and card games; under the control of various Brooklyn mobsters, including Crazy Joe Gallo (in 1972, Crazy Joe exited this earth in a hail of bullets, while dining at Umberto’s Clam House in Manhattan’s Little Italy).
When Andrea was seven, the local police raided 689. Her husband, Frank, was safe at work, but Dolly was led away in handcuffs; kicking, cursing, and screaming to the local lockup. Dolly continued her tirades at the precinct, and after the police had had enough of Dolly’s mouth, Dolly was not charged with any crime, and released from custody. Frank Silvestri was also not charged, but that ended Gambling Day at 689 Second St. in Brooklyn.
When Andrea was eleven, her parent’s lack of cash led to cold, harsh reality.
During the midst of an especially frigid winter, the furnace at 689 belched and coughed, and ceased to blow hot air. The city had just suffered a terrible snow storm, and when it snowed, truck drivers like Frank Silvestri were temporarily out of work. No work meant no money, which caused the Silvestri furnace to stay unfixed, until the streets were clear enough for Frank Silvestri to return to work. With the inside of 689 colder than a witch’s heart, Andrea and her siblings were sent to the scattered homes of assorted relatives. Andrea overheard discussions of which kids would go where, and for how long. And maybe for forever.
Andrea said, “We had no idea how long this exodus would last, and my parents seemed so indifferent about my welfare, I had no idea if they even wanted me back after this crisis was over, or if when the spring thaw came would I be back home. I was sure if my siblings voted on it, I would be out.”
Luckily for Andrea and her siblings, in a few weeks the furnace was repaired, and all the Silvestri kids were back home in their cozy nest at 689 ruled by mother Dolly.
Angela was a decent student at St. Rosa Lima Catholic grammar school, and her favorite subject was Catechism. In Catechism class, the nuns taught Angela to be more like Jesus; to turn the other cheek when antagonized. The only problem was that Dolly Silvestri preached to her children to do the exact opposite thing. Going by the laws of the streets rather than the laws of the church, Dolly taught her ten children if someone abused them to punch with both hands, until their antagonists were bloodied, beaten, and forevermore – bulldozed. Dolly’s thinking was, if her children didn’t fend for themselves, they’d get abused every day and they might as well stay home; and Dolly didn’t need that.
Because of the Silvestri family’s economic condition, the kid’s clothes were sometimes little more than rags, and their shoes had more holes than a colander. The Jewish students at a nearby Yeshiva school did not have that same problem, and were quick to taunt the Catholic kids, who were were not in their same fiscal condition.
One day, while Angela was passing the Yeshiva neighborhood school, the taunts about her clothing and religion rained on her in two different languages. The English part Angela understood, and it did not make her happy.
So what was a young Catholic girl to do? Obey the nuns and walk away? Or listen to Dolly, and flail away at the odd-looking kids, who was dressed in depressing black, with yarmulkes dumped on their heads and comical-looking curls running down both cheeks.
This was an easy choice, and when Angela finished with her fists, one boy, the son of a Rabbi, looked like he had just gone ten rounds with Muhammad Ali.
This did not please the Rabbi too much. Imagine the nerve of those Catholics.
After discerning who had made minced meat of his son’s face, the Rabbi, with his son in tow, made a trip to 689.
Andrea said, “I was home when Ma opened the door, and I was afraid of what she would do to me as I was what she would do to them.”
The Rabbi had his say (well, most of his say), but it paled next to Dolly Silvestri’s tirade.
“You get the fuck out of here,” Dolly said. “Your son-of-a-bitch son was picking on my little girl.”
Then Dolly started flapping her hands like a lunatic and cursing with words the Rabbi hadn’t a clue as to their meaning. The Rabbi’s face reddened and his son’s knees turned to jelly. Luckily, the Jews were able to exodus the Silvestri residence without needing a trip to the hospital, and little Andrea was never taunted by the Jewish crowd again.
So much for the teachings of the nuns.