Button Guys recently asked our YouTube community about five men who were all Gambino Family caporegimes during boss Carlo Gambino’s tenure of the Family. We wanted to know, “Who, in your opinion, was the most important and respected of all these mafiosi? Starting with the letter A, list them in the order of their overall power, respect, and importance with letter A being the most powerful and letter E being the least powerful.”
The choices were: A) Rosario (Charlie Brush) Dongarra, B) Carmine (Charlie Wagons) Fatico, C) Ettore (Terry) Zappi, D) Salvatore (Toddo Aurello) Avarello, and E) Vincent (Jimmy the Blond) Corrao.
This is how Button Guys’ “The Other Guy” ranked them:
The fact that each of these five men was elevated to a rank of “capo di decina” and given a contingent of soldiers and associates to oversee, I think speaks volumes about their perceived capabilities and dedication to boss Carlo Gambino himself to have even been chosen for such a position to begin with. In a sense, these appointments speak for themselves.
And in their own way, each of these mafiosi was accomplished enough to be considered for that role within the Gambino Family hierarchy.
That said, I do have my personal opinions as to who would, in my mind at least, rank accordingly from first through fifth, letters (A) to (E) on this list. So, like the man once said, “Here goes nothing.”
A) Ettore (Terry) Zappi. This man, although Napolitano by birth, was one of the closest and most trusted aides to Carlo Gambino for decades. They were so close, in fact, that Terry and Carlo purchased private homes together directly next door to one another on Club Drive in the upscale oceanfront community of Massapequa, L.I. Zappi was a very low-key guy who oversaw a large crew. But he, himself, specialized in labor-union racketeering for the borgata and controlled a huge loan-sharking business. The man never served time to speak of behind bars, and until his later years, he was also a virtual unknown to law enforcement. Legitimate interests included the famous Castro Convertible Company, Bobby Rubino’s Famous Ribs franchise, and extensive real estate holdings. His son Tony headed Teamsters Local #854. Zappi was a multimillionaire many times over.
Note: The next four men are separate, but considered almost equal to me for different reasons. But I had to rank them. So I did so the best I could.
B) Rosario (Charlie Brush) Dongarra. A Sicilian, he was another very low-keyed capo who oversaw one of the Family’s larger crews in Downtown Manhattan. A highly respected old-timer, who in his younger days, was reportedly a top-contract killer for the borgata. He died relatively young, but while he was alive, he helped control the Gambino Family’s extensive Manhattan and Bronx-based rackets. Dongarra is also suspected to have been a major heroin trafficker.
C) Vincent (Jimmy the Blond) Corrao. Another very respected old-timer from the Mulberry Street section of New York’s Little Italy. Corrao controlled many operations in Downtown New York, including floating crap games, Ziganette games, policy rackets, and narcotics (heroin) trafficking. He also headed a large and deadly crew. His sons were later inducted into the ranks under his sponsorship. Corrao held a documented ownership as well as hidden interests in several lucrative trucking companies.
D) Carmine (Charlie Wagons) Fatico. Based out of the East New York section of Brooklyn, Fatico and his kid brother Danny headed a very large and deadly crew of truck hijackers, thieves, bookmakers, shylocks, and other varied hoodlums. He was more of a street hoodlum type of capo who operated from the infamous Bergin Hunt & Fish Club. And of course, the Gotti brothers and several other young hoodlums who later made a name for themselves were known to have come up under his tutelage. Fatico is thought to have held a piece of several businesses, but Fatico himself was not a business-oriented guy. He was strictly a hoodlum.
E) Salvatore (Toddo Aurello) Avarello. This man’s current notoriety is largely due to one of his early minions, Sammy Gravano, having turned FBI informant in later years and speaking about who Avarello was. But in truth, during his long career, “Toddo Aurello” was a near shadow to the general public and to law enforcement alike. The police knew him. Yet, his low-key style mostly kept him below law enforcement’s radar. He headed a Brooklyn crew active in gambling, shylocking, hijacking, and thefts. Probably his biggest claim to fame is the suspicion that he was one of the primary shooters who got the contract to kill rebel faction leader (and Carlo Gambino rival) Tommy Rava. This murder helped pave the way for Gambino’s smooth transition to the boss seat.
The bottom line is that I truly believe Ettore Zappi was a first among equals as far as capos go. And judging from the way boss Carlo Gambino always kept him, in particular, so very close to him through the years, I suspect that Carlo felt the same exact way.
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