Giovanni "John" Vitale (1869-1920) was one of the earliest bosses of what became know as the Detroit Partnership.
Best recognized as the leader of one of two factions which battled mercilessly for control of Detroit's underworld just after the advent of prohibition, John Vitale's career actually began more than a decade before the outbreak of the bloodiest chapter in the history of the motor city mafia. Vitale entered the liquor busines during the first decade of the 20th century as a partner of Sam Cipriano, Joseph Stefano and a trio of grocer brothers from Wyandotte by the name of Gianolla. The newly formed liquor combine soon found itself competing with the most powerful Italian criminal combine in the Detroit area headed by Salvatore and Vito Adamo. Vitale and his partners became the prime competitors for the Adamo's who in an effort to maintain a distinct advantage over the upstart liquor dealers began giving away free ice with deliveries of their beer and other alcoholic beverages. Unable "at the time," to compete with the deep pockets of the Adamos, Tony and Salvatore Gianolla devised a plan to rid themselves of the only thing standing between them and total dominance of not only the liquor market but all other criminal fields in the Italian colony of Detroit. While the Adamo and Gianolla brothers fought an old world feud, Vitale, Cipriano and Stefano continued to conduct their business from a store on Rivard and Congress streets. With the elimination of the Adamo brothers and the ascent of Sam and Tony Gianolla to the top of the Italian criminal community, John Vitale concentrated on building a fortune for his lucrative and expanding liquor business. As time passed the Gianolla's grew in power Vitale was counted amoung their most important lieutenants. The association with between the two groups would continue for a short time until a business dispute between the Gianolla's and Peter Bosco ended with Bosco's murder at the hands of Gianolla gunmen. This killing sparked the harsh feelings between Vitale and the Gianolla brothes and would eventually lead to the conlict known as the Gianolla/Vitale gang war. John Vitale succeeded Peter Bosco as the arch enemy of the Gianolla brothers when he took control of the organization his friend had established independent of the house of Gianolla. During the conflict, the Gianolla's traded bombs and bullets with Vitale and his supporter but in the end John Vitale would emerge victorious following the elimination of both Tony and Sam in January and October of 1919. Vitale would himself enjoy a shortened reign marred by the murder of his oldest son Joe on August 18, 1920. Joe was murdered when remnants of the old Gianolla gang made an attempt on the life of John Vitale in retaliation for the murder of Giuseppe Manzello "the succesor to Sam Gianolla," a week earlier. Vitale's nephew Tony Badalamenti was gunned down shortly before the attack on Manzello.
John Vitale would himself be counted amongst the dead when 18 bullets fired from two passing auto's struck him down on 14th Avenue and Marentette at 3 a.m. The death of Vitale marked the end of the long conflict which pitted the forces of the powerful Gianolla's against many men who had at one time paid homage to them and their influence. John Vitale was survived by a wife and one surviving son who also went by the name John.