My friend sent me this article appearing Sunday in a Rhode Island paper:
Notorious mobster ‘Bobo’ to be released
“Notorious Providence mobster Frank L. Marrapese Jr., a convicted killer known as a one-man crime wave, is about to rejoin society.”
In which, further down the article, Bobo is saying:
“How do you think I feel?” he said on the tape. “I got three houses, five businesses, five kids, two girlfriends and a wife, and now I’m right there. I’m almost at the top, where I’m set for life.”
LOL!! Like dastardly Prince Humperdinck in Princess Bride, “I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.”
It got me to thinking about life on ‘The Hill’ in Providence, Rhode Island. Federal Hill was a few blocks from where my grandparents and great-uncle and other relatives lived. I was born there and lived there for the first two years of my life, and visited weekly afterwards. The family business was on Westminster Street, “Prata Funeral Home.” The Hill was where the New England mob had its headquarters. It was a good match, operating a funeral home where so many people were getting whacked every week. Ha. Ha.
“With the retirement of Buccola in 1954, Providence became the center of the New England Family’s operations. From a wood-frame, two-story building in Providence, [Mob boss Raymond] Patriarca kept his office and ran his crime empire. The building housed the National Cigarette Service Company and Coin-O-Matic Distributors, a vending machine and pinball business, on Atwell Avenue on what is called Federal Hill. Made members of organized crime there were called “members of the Office.” Vincent Teresa described Atwell as a noisy open-air market, that was also an armed camp with “spotters” located everywhere. This set up was very similar to other popular mob-run areas like Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy; Arthur Avenue in the Bronx; and Prince Street in Boston.”
In its heyday, the Mobsters had some colorful names. I don’t know what it is with Italians and nicknames but there you have it, a well-known trait. The only nicknames that I had were “guppy” when I was a tiny child, and “Miss Elizabeth” when I was newspaper editor. Not too colorful but better than Baby Shanks! Or any of these:
Frank “Butsey” Morelli
“Trigger Mike” Coppola
Joseph “The Animal” Barboza
William “The Wild Man” Grasso
Frances “Cadillac Frank” Salemme
Dennis “Champagne” Lepore
Luigi Giovanni “Baby Shanks” Manocchio
Even mobsters have legends to uphold with the weight of the father’s success wearing on the heir. Ray Jr. took over the New England Mob after his father died, but junior wasn’t well thought of. “At the time a former Rhode Island State Police investigator stated that Junior Patriarca, “Didn’t have the brains or the power to lead the family. He couldn’t lead a Brownie troop.” Or so one news article goes.
When we weren’t eating a great dinner my nonnie cooked, there were always fantastic restaurants to choose from on Atwells Ave. As an adult, I remember taking some friends to one of them, a piazza-like Square lined with indoor and open air restaurants. We sat outside in the summer air, surrounded by turn of the century buildings with apartments on the upper floors. I noticed everyone was craning his or her necks and looking intently up to one particular apartment. A twenty-something gal was washing her dishes in her sink by the window. Naked. She must have had a lot of dishes, and they were very well cleaned, because she washed for a long time. A bunch of characters on The Hill.
Another great restaurant up there on the Hill is Angelo’s Civita Farnese, est. 1924. It is a bona fide a Federal Hill tradition. Fodor’s Review says “In the heart of the ‘Hill,’ Angelo’s is a lively (even boisterous) family-run place with old-world charm. Locals come here for its good-size portions of fresh, simply prepared pasta.” Being in business for 84 years is no small feat, as this news article attests-
“Angelo’s Civita Farnese on Atwells Avenue in Providence is the longest-operating family-owned restaurant in Rhode Island, a fact that was recognized today by the U.S. Small Business Administration….[Owner] Antignano will officially receive the award in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2008, during the national Small Business Week celebration.” My dad used to eat in there a lot. Go, Angelo’s! Nice to see the original businesses on the Hill still thriving.
Our original family business established on Westminster St. is not still thriving. The flagship Prata Funeral Home was recently converted to luxury town homes, and the 1850 Federal style building re-named “Westminster Place.” I found a blog entry from a couple who bought the place, and there are photos. It was weird to see other people living in the old Prata Funeral Home, and reading their comments about it. Oh, well, time moves on. I am grateful that at least the fine old building wasn’t razed, nor has the old family homestead become a Hardees.
And that’s where the Bobo being released from prison article has led me!