Born Palermo, Sicily, 1873
Killed New York, NY, Oct. 10, 1928.
Palermo-born D'Aquila ran a cheese importing business in New York when he wasn't occupied with the day-to-day business of one of the more successful Mafia organizations.
D'Aquila began his underworld career as a Bronx-based underling in the Mafia of American boss of bosses Giuseppe Morello. His personal criminal pursuits are not well known. He was arrested in 1906 as a confidence man and arrested again in 1909 on unknown charges. Both times, the charges were dropped.
D'Aquila moved to Brooklyn, where he likely became an important lieutenant under Morello brother-in-law Ignazio Lupo. When Morello and Lupo were jailed for counterfeiting in 1910, D'Aquila was selected as leader of the Lupo operation and as boss of bosses of the American Mafia.
D'Aquila meddled extensively in the business of other American crime families. He is believed to have inserted his own loyal followers as spies into other families.
Despite D'Aquila's vast strength, he did not succeed in uniting all of New York City's Mafiosi. He attempted to put down an insurrection in East Harlem through the assassinations of the Lomonte brothers. Italian colonies on Manhattan's Lower East Side also eluded his grasp.
The questionable loyalty of his underworld subjects in Manhattan apparently nagged at D'Aquila. When Morello and Lupo were released from federal prison around 1920, D'Aquila passed death sentences against his former superiors and ten of their closest allies in order to eliminate the potential rivals. One of those condemned by D'Aquila was his loyal henchman Umberto Valenti, then powerful enough to concern the boss of bosses.
Valenti reached an accord with D'Aquila by promising to eliminate Manhattan Mafia upstart Giuseppe Masseria, who had become the Morello faction's standard-bearer. Through guile and luck, Masseria survived Valenti attempts on his life and managed to kill D'Aquila's gunman in 1922.
The events of the early 1920s cost D'Aquila a key ally. Saverio "Sam" Pollaccia, a close friend of D'Aquila's who followed him from the Bronx to Brooklyn, abandoned D'Aquila and became a personal adviser to Masseria.
The boss of bosses' authority waned, particularly in New York, through the next few years. D'Aquila retreated back into the South Bronx about 1925-1926, moving into a home across the street from the entrance to the Bronx Zoo. D'Aquila was cornered and killed during a visit to a Manhattan doctor in 1928. Giuseppe Masseria became the new boss of bosses and retained Giuseppe Morello as his chief strategist.
While a number of D'Aquila loyalists sided with Brooklyn Castellammarese leader Salvatore Maranzano in the Castellammarese War of 1930-31, the old Brooklyn-Bronx D'Aquila unit was officially taken over by Masseria supporter Al Mineo and his right-hand man Steve Ferrigno.
After the deaths of Mineo and Ferrigno, the unit was run by Frank Scalise during the later Castellammarese War and was then turned over to Vincent Mangano in the 1931 underworld reorganization. It survives to this day as the Gambino Family.