Birthday: January 27, 1886
Nationality: American, Italian
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Angri, province of Salerno, Campania, Italy
Notorious As: Gangster
Spouse/Ex-: Anna Ronga Nitto (m. 1928), Annette Caravetta Nitto (m. 1942), Ursula Sue Nitto (m. 1940), Rosa Levitt Nitto (m. 1918 - div. 1928)
father: Luigi Nitto
mother: Rose Nitto
children: Joseph Nitto
Died on: March 19, 1943
place of death: North Riverside, Illinois, United States
Who was Frank Nitti?
Frank Nitti was an Italian-born American gangster, best known as one of the top henchmen of the notorious gangster Al Capone. Nitti was in charge of the monetary matters of the ‘Chicago Outfit’ and later took control over the gang. Born in Campania, Italy, he was the first cousin of Al Capone. Nitti lost his father as a child and moved to the United States when he was 7 years old. Nitti received some formal education till his teenage years and quit school after seventh grade. He left home at the age of 14. He did many odd jobs to survive in the United States, moving to different places from time to time. In the early 1910s, he began working as a barber. At the same time, he came in touch with the ‘Galveston Crime Syndicate.’ He began working a bootlegger and a petty thief during the Prohibition era and came in touch with Al Capone and his boss. In the 1920s, he joined their gang and became a hugely notorious gangster. He was incarcerated for tax evasion. He shot himself to death in 1943.
Early Life & Childhood
Frank Nitti was born Francesco Raffaele Nitto, on January 27, 1881, in Angri, Campania, Italy, to Luigi and Rosina Nitto. He was the second-born child in the family and grew up with his sister, Giovannina. His was a lower-middle-class Italian family. Al Capone was his first cousin.
Nitti’s father passed away when Nitti was 2 years old. His mother married another man, Francesco Dolendo, within the first year of her husband’s death.
Dolendo moved to the United States in July 1890. The rest of the family followed in June 1893, when Nitti was 7 years old. The family settled in Brooklyn, New York City. They had come to the U.S. in search of a better life. Nitti did odd jobs after school when he was not even 10 years old.
However, he was not academically good. He left school when he was in seventh grade and began doing odd jobs to earn money. He worked as a barber, a pinsetter, and a factory worker. At that time, his cousin Al Capone’s family lived nearby. Nitti was on good terms with Capone’s older brothers. They had started a small gang together. It was named the ‘Navy Street Boys.’
Nitti and his stepfather were never on good terms, and that compelled a 14-year-old Nitti to leave home. For the next few years, he worked at many local factories and made ends meet somehow. He eventually left Brooklyn at the age of 24. Not much is known about his life back then, but it has been reported that he joined a few local gangs and committed petty crimes.
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The Crime Life
Al Capone and Nitti were never really close as kids. Nitti always wanted to come out of the poor financial condition he was in and was always involved in some sort of criminal activity ever since he was a teenager.
It is estimated that he went to Chicago in around 1913 and began working odd jobs to sustain his lifestyle. In 1913, he worked steadily at a barber shop. There, he met gangsters Alex Louis Greenberg and Dean O’Banion and eventually ventured into organized crime. He sold illegal liquor imported from Canada into Chicago. He was quite good at his job and thus gained the attention of the ‘Chicago Outfit,’ headed by Johnny "Papa Johnny" Torrio and his top henchman, Nitti’s cousin, Al Capone.
Under Torrio's successor, Capone, Nitti's reputation soared. Nitti ran Capone's liquor-smuggling and distribution operation, importing whisky from Canada and selling it through a network of speakeasies around Chicago.
Nitti joined Capone’s gang in around 1920. This was the time of the Prohibition era, and bootleggers made a fortune selling illegal liquor. Nitti used his contacts in Canada and Chicago and began smuggling in liquor in huge quantities. He eventually gained a great reputation in the gang.
His business and leadership skills were hugely admired by Capone. Nitti singlehandedly headed the entire whisky-smuggling operations and distribution. Both of them were from the same town in Italy, but Nitti had a better presence of mind. He helped Capone in gaining a solid control over the Sicilian and Camorra underworld arena.
Capone eventually grew extremely fond of Nitti. Nitti later came to be known as “The Enforcer.” His reputation was that of a dangerous gangster, but Nitti was anything but that. He never committed violence and always used his hitmen to carry out the murderous deeds for him.
Nitti was also Capone’s most trusted bodyguard at one point, but owing to his growing reputation in the gang, he was asked to have hitmen carry out murders and other crimes for him.
In 1931, the gang was in a major trouble when both Nitti and Capone were charged with tax evasion. The charges against them were proved, and they were sentenced to serve prison time. Nitti was imprisoned for 18 months, while Capone got a prison sentence of 11 years.
Nitti turned out to be an extremely decent prisoner and did not cause any trouble to the prison authorities. Hence, he was released in due time. He was also the number-one candidate to take Capone’s place in the gang. Thus, he became the leader of the ‘Capone Gang’ in 1932.
With Nitti as the gang leader, the ‘Capone Gang’ moved from their prostitution- and gambling-related operations to other areas, including control of labor unions. They were interested in extorting many big and small businesses in the area.
In 1932, officers from Chicago police entered Nitti’s office and shot him three times, claiming it was an act of self-defense. It was later insisted in court that the shootout had been ordered by the newly elected mayor, Anton Cermak.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Nitti married Chicagoan Rosa in 1917. The marriage took place in Dallas, Texas. Around that time, the couple’s movements remained largely unknown. They divorced in 1928.
Soon after the divorce, Nitti married Anna Ronga. The couple adopted a son named Joe. She died in 1940, after suffering from an internal ailment that remained unknown.
In 1942, Nitti married Annette Caravetta. Their marriage ended a year later after Nitti shot himself to death.
In 1943, two mobsters from the Chicago underworld were apprehended by the police for extorting money from Hollywood studios in exchange of labor peace. They were tried in court. They made a deal with the authorities, according to which, in exchange for their freedom, they agreed to name their top bosses. Eventually, Nitti’s name came up.
Paul "The Waiter" Ricca, another top man in the gang, and other gang members ordered Nitti to take the blame. However, Nitti had spent some time in prison before and had become extremely claustrophobic during that time. The thought of going to prison again scared him, and he shot himself on March 19, 1943. He died on the spot at the age of 62.