The ingredient that gives Mafia news that old-world flavor
by Carl Russo
I CAN TELL A CERTAIN news item about the Italian Mafia has gone really big as soon as friends and relatives start sending me the media links. Often these reports of arrests, attacks, and assassinations come with an exotic flair that conforms to our stereotypical view of the mob. Without a touch of the Hollywood—secret initiation rites, a bullet between the eyes—the news doesn’t travel beyond Italy. But when there’s an element of food involved, especially cheese, the story sprouts legs and takes off running.
“I’ve put the ricotta aside for you,” was the opening quote in several news articles about the media-dubbed “Mafia sheep code” that went viral this month. That statement and similar ciphers, recorded by police wiretaps, were made by a pair of Sicilian sheep grazers whenever a message from fugitive godfather Matteo Messina Denaro was ready for pickup. The two shepherds and nine other accomplices were arrested on August 3, the culmination of a five-year investigation and the latest roundup in actions that have bagged the capomafia’s sister, cousin and various in-laws.