Gentile, Nicola (1884-c1970)

Born Siculiana, Sicily, June 12, 1884

Died Sicily, c1970.

"Zu Cola" Gentile was a Sicilian Mafioso who traveled the United States as a sort of underworld handyman.

Born in the southern Sicilian community of Siculiana in 1884, he arrived in the U.S. at age 19. Much of his time in the U.S. was spent in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Missouri. He was a trusted confidant of New York Mafiosi from the early 1900s through the Castellammarese War. He was called upon to mediate a dispute between the Morello-Lupo clan and boss of bosses Salvatore D'Aquila in the 1920s. He also was called upon to mediate disputes involving Chicago and Los Angeles crime bosses and underworld rivals in New York City.(1)

Gentile made a number of trips across the national criminal network and briefly served in leadership roles the Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh Mafia families. He was on intimate terms with Pittsburgh bosses Gregorio Conti and John Bazzano, and Cleveland bosses Joe Lonardo and Frank "Ciccio" Milano. He served as a capodecina and counselor in the Pittsburgh Mafia and as temporary commander of the Kansas City mob.(2)

Gentile experienced several close calls. The most dramatic occurred when he was called to the Chicago underworld coronation of Salvatore Maranzano at the conclusion of the Castellammarese War. Then Pittsburgh boss Giuseppe Siragusa had made some secret accusations against Gentile, and Gentile was summoned for a disciplinary hearing that easily could have resulted in his execution. In a face-to-face meeting with host Al Capone, Gentile denied the charges and threatened to behead any person making them. Capone, who recalled meeting Gentile in the days of Mafia boss Mike Merlo, was impressed by Gentile's courage. Siragusa backed off.(3)

In 1937, facing narcotics charges from a federal arrest in New Orleans, LA, he returned to Sicily. After World War II, when Luciano was deported to Italy, the U.S. narcotics enforcement agents believed the two men teamed up in Sicily to arrange drug smuggling into the U.S.(4)

About the time of his escape to Sicily, Gentile decided to write about his Mafia experiences. A manuscript was shared with American agents in Italy. It was translated to English and later turned over to the FBI. Gentile was advised to do no more writing. However, a 1963 book named Vita di Capomafia, he cowrote with journalist Felice Chilante, repeated and expanded upon the material in the earlier manuscript. A series of articles based on the book was run in Italian newspapers. Gentile's early manuscript, published book and articles were used by U.S. law enforcement officials as corroboration (possibly also as foundation) for the tales told by Mafia informant Joe Valachi.(5) (It is likely that bits of Gentile's work were provided to Valachi to fill the considerable gaps in his personal underworld knowledge.)

Gentile received an underworld death sentence for his violation of the Mafia's code of silence. However, his assigned killers took no action against him, allowing him to die of old age.(6) Gentile's passing was not noted by the American press.(7)

Related Links:

  1. . Gentile, Nick, Vita di Capomafia, Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1963.
  2. . Gentile. Gentile's leadership of an American Mafia crew is also noted in Gage, Nicholas, "Mafioso's memoirs support Valachi's testimony...," New York Times, Sunday, April 11, 1971, p. 51. His work as a traveling troubleshooter is noted in Messick, Hank, Lansky, New York: Berkley, 1971.
  3. . Gentile.
  4. . Hinton, Harold B., "Luciano rules U.S. narcotics from Sicily, senators hear," New York Times, Thursday, June 28, 1951, p. 1.
  5. . Gage.
  6. . Blickman, Tom, "The Rothschilds of the Mafia on Aruba," Transnational Organized Crime, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1997, Transnational Institute website: .
  7. . In 1971, Gage, closed with, "Nothing has been heard about him in recent years, but he is believed to be still alive."