Cesare "The Tall Guy" Bonventre (January 1, 1951 – April 16, 1984) was a powerful Sicilian mobster and hitman for the Sicilian Mafia, and later became a hitman for the Bonanno crime family, and then soon became a capo in the Bonanno crime family.
Born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Bonventre was a made man in the Sicilian Mafia. During the 1960's, the American Mafia imported young Sicilian mobsters from Sicily to the United States to work as drug traffickers and assassins. American mobsters soon derisively dubbed the Sicilians "Zips" due to their fast speech. Bonanno boss Carmine Galante brought Bonventre to New York to be his bodyguard and personal hitman. Bonventre soon became the unofficial underboss of the Bonanno family Sicilian faction. Bonventre's uncle was John Bonventre, a former Bonanno family underboss. Bonventre was also related to the first family boss Joseph Bonanno and a cousin of Bonanno mobster Baldassare "Baldo" Amato.
Bonventre's moniker was "The Tall Guy" because he was an extremely tall man, standing 7 feet tall in height and weighing 250 lbs, Bonventre intimidated many people due to his towering size. extremely tall, lean and handsome, Bonventre frequented clubs such as The Toyland Social Club and the Knickerbocker Avenue area with other Sicilian mobsters. In the book King of the Godfathers, Anthony M. Destefano writes that there was something about Bonventre that made him stand out from the other ethnic Italians. His stylish clothing, aviator sunglasses and European man purses embodied Italian couture. Bonventre normally wore his shirt unbutton with a gold crucifix hanging from his neck.
Carmine Galante was allegedly murdered for not sharing his $15 billion a year drug trafficking profits with the family. The hit on Galante required Phillip Rastelli to get approval from the Sicilian Mafia, Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano and the other Commission bosses. It was later rumored that the Commission, which is the governing body of the Italian-American Mafia, had sanctioned Galante's murder and arranged for Bonventre and Baldo, Galante's bodyguards and personal assassins, to betray him.
On July 12, 1979, Bonventre allegedly participated in the murders of Carmine Galante and two of his associates. He had been dropped off for lunch at Joe & Mary's; an Italian restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. After a short while, bodyguards Bonventre and Baldo, Amato joined Galante. Although it was a hot summer day and they were dining on the patio, both Bonventre and Amato both leather jackets; presumably to protect themselves from stray bullets and debris. Suddenly, ten hitmen with with shotguns and AK-47 assault rifles wearing ski masks appeared on the patio and opened fire on Galante, more than 600 rounds were fired at Galante and his two associates. Bonventre and Amato allegedly joined in the attack, then disappeared from the scene after the three hitmen. Galante and his two lunch companions died immediately. A week after the Galante murders, Bonventre was arrested by federal agents. However, he was soon released and was never charged in this crime.
Phillip Rastelli succeeded Carmine Galante as boss of the family, even though he was incarcerated at the time and Joseph Massino became underboss. Although some believed Massino was the real power in the family. After Galante's death, Bonventre was promoted from soldier to capo and joined Salvatore Catalano's Brooklyn crew. At 28, Bonventre became the youngest capo in Bonanno family history. Bonventre became involved in the importation and drug trafficking of heroin from Sicily into New York pizza parlors, known as the "Pizza Connection".
Bonventre had been on the side of the three capos' Alphonse Indelicato, Phillip Giaccone and Dominick Trinchera; a family faction who were planning a coup to take over the family. However, Bonventre switched sides, joining Rastelli's faction. If Bonventre and the Zips had stayed loyal to Indelicato, he would have probably taken over the Bonanno family. The ascension of Phillip Rastelli as boss triggered a period of discontent and rivalry in the Bonanno family. As a result, Rastelli and Massino started purging their opponents in the family.
In 1984, Joseph Massino decided to eliminate Bonventre. Bonventre's pedigree, increasing wealth and fearsome reputation had made him into a threat to Massino's leadership. Bonventre controlled the Sicilians, the meanest killers in the family. Bonventre himself was prone to outbursts of sadistic violence and was suspected of over 20 murders. Massino warned, "He's a very sharp guy. You have to be careful."
In April 1984, Bonanno mobsters Salvatore Vitale and Louis Attanasio picked up Bonventre to bring him to a meeting with Phillip Rastelli at a glue factory in Wallington, New Jersey. As Vitale drove the car into the factory, Attanasio shot Bonventre twice in the head. Surprisingly, Bonventre still struggled; grabbing the steering wheel and trying to crash the car, forcing the two hitmen to fight him off. As Vitale steered into the garage, Bonventre crawled out of the car. Louis Attanasio then killed him on the garage floor with two more shots. Bonventre's body was hacked to pieces and dumped into three 55-gallon glue drums. The killers then moved the drums to the fourth floor offices of a trading company in Garfield, New Jersey.
On April 9, 1984, unaware that Bonventre was dead, a federal grand jury indicted him and 12 other men on charges of distributing narcotics through the pizza restaurants - the so-called "Pizza Connection" case. On April 17, 1984, Bonventre's body was recovered. FBI agents searching the trading company offices for stolen goods discovered the three drums. After the body was recovered, it took forensic technicians three months to identify it. Bonventre is buried at Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. Bonventre's widow gave birth to their only son after the murder.
Soon after the murder, a government informant later claimed that one of Bonventre's killers was Bonanno mobster Cosimo Aiello. However, in October 1984, Aiello was shot to death in the parking lot of a Clifton, New Jersey restaurant. In January 2004, nearly 20 years after the Bonventre murder, federal authorities arrested Louis Attanasio, Peter Calabrese and Louis's brother Robert Attanasio. Now a government witness, Salvatore Vitale testified against them. On September 20, 2006, after being convicted of murder, Louis Attanasio and Calabrese were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Robert Attanasio, who had cleaned up the murder car, received 10 years imprisonment.