Born Montemarano, Italy, Nov. 22, 1906.
Died Ancona, Italy, Nov. 26, 1971.
A longtime Brooklynite, he was affiliated early in his criminal career with Mafia bigshots Frank Yale and Anthony "Little Augie" Pisano (Anthony Carfano). After the death of Yale in 1928, Adonis, Vito Genovese and Mike Miranda joined Pisano as the most prominent Neapolitans working within the Giuseppe Masseria organization in 1920s New York.
According to some sources, Adonis attended a May 13-15, 1929, national "convention" of bootleggers in Atlantic City. However, there is no hard evidence of his attendance. Some sources name Adonis one of the gunmen who assassinated boss of bosses Giuseppe Masseria at Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant on April 15, 1931.
Mafia informant Joseph Valachi stated that Adonis - who directed criminal activity at the Brooklyn docks alongside Albert Anastasia and ran a Brooklyn eatery, Joe's Italian Kitchen on Carroll Street and Fourth Avenue - was among those targeted for elimination by Maranzano after the conclusion of the Castellammarese War in 1931. After Maranzano was assassinated later that year, the Mafia reorganized. Adonis became a major player in the reorganized underworld, though his precise role in the hierarchy is hazy.
Some sources name him a top lieutenant in the Brooklyn Family of Vincent and Philip Mangano, while others place him within Luciano's own Manhattan-based Family. Nicholas Gage suggests that Adonis was actually the first post-war leader of what became the Mangano Family, but Gage does not offer a sufficient explanation for how or why Adonis became less than a Family boss later on.
Joe Bonanno, who probably knew Adonis' title, doesn't speak of it in his autobiography, and Valachi seems not to know anything about the Brooklyn leader's status. Evidence suggests that Adonis's authority overlapped the Mangano mob territory, but that he owed his primary allegiance to his long-time friends Luciano and Frank Costello.
Eventually, Adonis seemed to be everywhere and into everything - alcohol, gambling, drugs, union rackets, political shenanigans... He had established relationships with several Mafia Families and with some non-Italian gangs as well. Adonis was known to be a trusted ally and confidant of Frank Costello, who presided over Luciano's Manhattan Family after Luciano went to prison in the 1930s. Adonis joined Costello and Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky and Benjamin Siegel in ownership of the Colonial Inn casino in Miami Beach. Adonis also shared a gambling empire in New Jersey with Mafioso Willie Moretti.
Adonis, who had long claimed to be an American native and who had settled in Fort Lee, NJ (his Dearborn Road home was about a quarter mile from the Bluff Road home of Albert Anastasia), was shown to be an immigrant in the 1950s. He was ordered to be deported in 1953. He fought that order in the courts. A voluntary deportation to Italy occurred in 1956 in the wake of a perjury charge stemming from the Kefauver Committee hearings.
One of the legendary fallings out between the American Mafiosi and the Kennedy Administration was allegedly over arrangements for the Mafia to support Kennedy's candidacy for President in return for Kennedy allowing Adonis back into the country. President John Kennedy was reportedly willing to welcome Adonis home, but Attorney General Robert Kennedy blocked the move.
The Italian government decided to inflict an exile within an exile upon Adonis on June 20, 1971. A Milan court demanded that he be restricted to the town of Ancona. Adonis died there of natural causes on Nov. 26, 1971. His remains were returned to the United States and buried Dec. 6 in Madonna Roman Catholic Cemetery in Fort Lee, NJ.