Antonio Cottone (1904/1905 – August 22, 1956) was a member of the Mafia in his hometown Villabate in the province of Palermo, Sicily. He was known as U Patre Nostru (Our Heavenly Father) due to his generosity. The Cottone clan was a historical Mafia family. They were mentioned in 1937 as the Mafia bosses of Villabate by Melchiorre Allegra, a mafioso physician who became an informant when he was arrested.
Influential Mafia boss
Antonio Nino Cottone had worked for the Profaci brothers in New York City and was deported back to Sicily. He became the boss of Villabate where the Profaci family originated. Cottone was not only influential in his own town but in Palermo as well. After the Allied invasion of Sicily during World War II (Operation Husky), Cottone was made mayor of Villabate by the Allied Military Government of Occupied Territories (AMGOT) who looked for anti-fascist notables to replace fascist authorities.
A onetime butcher who prospered mightily during the U.S. occupation of Sicily, Nino Cottone was respected for his wealth and for his excellent connections in the Christian Democrat party (DC—Democrazia Cristiana). The foundation of Nino's respectability was the fact that he was a boss of the "Mafia of the Gardens"—the section of Cosa Nostra that "protects" Palermo's fruit market men and citrus growers. Cottone also ran the meat supply to Palermo's wholesale market and got his meat from cattle thief Luciano Leggio from Corleone.
Cottone mediated the peace in the violent vendetta within the Greco Mafia clan between the factions of Ciaculli and Croceverde Giardini. The daughter of Nino Cottone, Maria Cottone, married Salvatore Greco The Senator.
Wholesale market war
In January 1955, the Palermo fruit and vegetable wholesale market moved from the Zisa area to Acquasanta, disturbing the delicate power balances within Cosa Nostra. The Acquasanta Mafia clan tried to muscle in on the protection racket that traditionally belonged the "Mafia of the Gardens"—such as the Greco’s and Cottone—because it now fell under their territory. Some villages just outside Palermo, like Bagheria and Villabate, flared up with the same kind of violence for the control of irrigation, transport, and wholesale markets. A violent dispute erupted leaving bodies on both sides. Acquasanta bosses Gaetano Galatolo and Nicola D’Alessandro were killed, as well as a Greco from the Ciaculli clan.
On August 22, 1956, Nino Cottone was killed as well. Returning home late, he gently backed his little Fiat station wagon into the drive of his summer villa. He had just locked the car when he was bowled along the driveway by two streams of machine-gun bullets.
In 1956, Joe Profaci, in Brooklyn (New York City), was recorded talking about the export of Sicilian oranges with Nino Cottone, in Sicily. Cottone lost his life that year in the battle for Palermo wholesale market, but Profaci's oranges kept on coming. The Brooklyn number rung by Cottone was the same number rung by Lucky Luciano from Naples and Frank Coppola from Anzio. All were recorded by the Palermo Questura talking ecstatically about high-grade Sicilian oranges. In 1959, US Customs intercepted one of those orange crates. Hollow wax oranges, 90 to a crate, were filled with heroin until they weighed as much as real oranges. Each crate carried 110 pounds of pure heroin.