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Saturday
Nov222014

Mmm Mmm Bonu! Campbell’s Inedible Sicilian Soup

Palermo’s new museum of vintage objects features a gruesome Mafia exhibit

by Carl Russo

Carlo Alberto Dalla ChiesaI DID A DOUBLE take when I came across this photo of a sculpture at Spazio Vintage (Vintage Space), a museum in Palermo overflowing with retro artifacts. The assemblage is a Warholian stack of soup cans under the brand name of Campbello di Licata, a play on the southern Sicilian city of Campobello di Licata.

Siccu, or, in Italian, secco—the word for dry—is a type of thick stew (usually made with beans) that can be eaten with a fork. Sealed with a golden Trinacria, you’ve got a clever faux product that no Sicilian would ever want to eat.

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Saturday
Nov082014

Justice Decried: An Innocent Sicilian Wants Compensation for a Stolen Life

Giuseppe Gulotta was among a group of teens who confessed under torture to murder. He was locked away for 22 years.

by Carl Russo

Giuseppe GulottaON THE FRIGID morning of January 26, 1976, a politician and his police escort were driving along the shoreline road of Alcamo Marina, Sicily, when something caught the eye of a bodyguard: the door of the local carabiniere barracks stood wide open. Stopping to investigate, the policemen stepped inside and found two dead soldiers, full of bullets, sprawled on the floor in a puddle of their own blood.

The victims, Lance Corporal Salvatore Falcetta and officer Carmine Apuzzo, apparently had been attacked in their sleep and robbed of their service arms and uniforms. Later that day, a newspaper office was contacted by an anonymous caller, who said, “The people and the workers bring justice to all the slaves and ranking carabinieri who defend the bourgeois state.” Colonel Giuseppe Russo of Ficuzza organized a manhunt to find the extreme-left terrorists responsible for the murders.

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Wednesday
Oct012014

Mafia Boss Totò Riina: Still Crazy After All These Years

Despite the Sicilian godfather’s threats, security is still a joke

by Carl Russo

Nino Di Matteo“WHEN HE GETS OUT, shoot him! Pom! Pam!” That’s Totò Riina reliving the killing of Salvatore Inzerillo, just one of many rivals whose assassination he ordered during his reign as the Sicilian Mafia’s supreme commander. This provocative sound bite comes from the latest batch of transcripts of conversations Riina had with boss Alberto Lorusso, secretly recorded in a prison cell a year ago.

As more excerpts of the Riina-Lorusso tapes are released to the public—their words fill thirteen hundred pages—it is clear that the capomafia’s homicidal impulse is as fresh as it was in 1992, when his campaign to exterminate the officials pursuing him culminated in the blowing up of top anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, followed by a series of bombings of Italian landmarks that claimed twenty-two lives.

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Monday
Sep012014

Saturday
Aug022014

Bad Bambino: A Chat with a Sicilian-Englishman about His New Mafia Memoir

Author Francesco Scannella was groomed for a life in the Sicilian mob from age seven

by Carl Russo

Francesco ScannellaTHE ENGLISH GRAPHIC ARTIST Francesco Scannella has always felt the pull of a childhood spent in the land of his Sicilian immigrant parents. Sicilian Shadows, his newly published memoir of that period, reveals a fascinating dual citizenship of the mind. At a tender age, “Frank” was torn from the suburban idyll of 1960s Surrey and thrust into a Mafia backwater in Sicily’s blazing interior. All the passions, superstitions and ancient codes of the island were openly displayed in Mussomeli, Frank’s new home for several years, but mention of the Mafia was punishable.

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Friday
Jul252014

San Francisco Giant: Irreverent Notes on ‘Helter Skelter’ Author Curt Gentry

The man behind the greatest true-crime book ever written is dead at the age of 83

by Carl Russo

Charles MansonTAKE YOUR OLD COPY of Helter Skelter off the shelf and look at the cover, and you’ll see something you might not have noticed before. Below the famous name of Manson Family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, you’ll see that of the book’s true author, Curt Gentry. I’d like to note the passing of this quiet giant of the North Beach literary scene with my fleeting memories of him.

As the obituaries point out (and the Chronicle’s will serve as well as any other), Curt succumbed to lung cancer on July 10, at the age of eighty-three. But his liver, like his heart, was made of gold.

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