When Joe Profaci arrived in the U.S. in 1921, he first settled in Little Italy before making his way to Chicago. After a few years and a failed grocery business, he made his way back to New York City. It’s actually ironic that the future boss of the Profaci family would fail considering his later successes in the business world.
Profaci came from a family in Villabate, Sicily in the province of Palermo called the Zubbio who were already powers in their local cosca and he was immediately recognized in this country as such. This background allowed him to rise to head his own Family with the original formation of Cosa Nostra in 1931 – a role Profaci would maintain for over 30 years until his untimely death in 1962.
The Profaci Family (later Colombo Family) was knee-deep in all the typical rackets like gambling, bootlegging, loansharking, truck hijacking, and so on. The one exception was narcotics, specifically heroin, though he did allow a small contingent of his men – typically Sicilian nationals – to import and distribute the white powder. But he made sure to keep “off the grid” so as not to bring heat upon himself.
In the mid-1950s, a top Villabate mafioso and boyhood friend of Profaci named Antonio Cottone was a suspected supplier of the drug. In 1959, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics intercepted a crate of 90 fake waxed oranges. The centers of each of these Sicilian “oranges” had been hollowed out and stuffed with bags of pure Turkish heroin.
But Profaci’s most successful endeavors were in the world of business. He developed several major companies that cornered a good portion of the market in various industries that are still active to this very day! His business acumen is often overlooked but Button Guys cannot think of another top mafioso who accomplished more in the upper world of business than he.
Legitimately, his companies were worth untold millions by 1955. Today, their worth is almost incalculable! From wholesale food suppliers, liquor distributorships, and linen supply companies to the restaurant industry, Profaci and company were like “one-stop shopping”! Profaci also held interests in real estate, garment factories, jukebox vending machines, and much more.
For example, he was one of the largest suppliers of Italian-style foods and olive oils. The famous Filippo Berio and Fratelli Berio Olive Oils that you see on your local supermarket shelves were former Profaci firms that today are 100 percent legitimate.
The Profaci family is also behind the popular Colavita olive oil company – also a 100% legitimate business currently and for decades earlier. In fact, the Profaci Family today — like lawyers, accountants, and corporate executives — are among the most renowned and respected food executives in the nation. And to think it all started with old man Profaci and “The Honored Society” – the American dream for sure….. mafioso style!
There’s no doubt that Joe Profaci was one of the most powerful Mafia members ever in the entire United States.