Bazzano immigrated from Italy to the United States in 1909 and as a young man lived in West Virginia and then Johnstown, Pa., working as laborer and a clerk.
He became a U.S. citizen in 1916, enlisted in the military, served during World War I, and afterward married and moved to New Kensington. By 1930, he and his wife, Rose, had moved to the Pittsburgh area. The U.S. census that year lists him as a retail merchant and confectioner. Bazzano also owned the Rome Coffee Shop. Bazzano also became a dealer in bootlegging supplies. Outwardly, he seemed like a good family man who could afford to lavish luxuries on his wife and five children. He lived in a tony suburb far from the dirty racket worlds in Pittsburgh. Folks in New Kensington, where Bazzano had lived before moving to Mt. Lebanon, remembered him as a good citizen and shrewd businessman who imported olive oil and Italian foods. He certainly didn't seem like a man shoulder-deep in bootlegging and gambling. He kept that part of himself hidden, even from his family.
Boss of Pittsburgh
He took over the Pittsburgh Mafia family upon the assassination of boss Giuseppe Siragusa on Sept. 13, 1931. Soon after taking control of the Family, Bazzano had to fend off incursions by the Volpe family, his former allies. The Volpe brothers, powerful in the Wilmerding Pennsylvania area, were moving into the established territories of the Pittsburgh and Cleveland crime family organizations.
Three of the Volpe brothers were shot to death at Bazzano's coffee shop on July 29, 1932 while allegedly attending a peace meeting with Bazzano (Bazzano was not present, but his brother Santo and some of the Volpe's henchmen were). Bazzano was believed to be responsible. Police requested an interview with Bazzano and he agreed to meet authorities at detective headquarters. The interview lasted 30 minutes. Bazzano told investigators he knew nothing about the murders — at the time of the shootings, Bazzano said, he was tending to business in Midland, Beaver County. Like his brother Santo, John Bazzano insisted that the Volpes were his friends. Police saw no reason to detain him. The rest of the Volpe clan reportedly protested the murders to the newly formed Mafia Commission, and Bazzano was sentenced to die for his offense.
Less than a week after the Volpe killings, Bazzano and two other men had been summoned to New York City by the recently formed La Cosa Nostra Commission, a group of underworld big shots whose duty it was to arbitrate gangland disputes and, when needed, punish those who had gone astray. Bazzano and his traveling companions checked into the Hotel Pennsylvania in midtown Manhattan. One of the men accompanying Bazzano was Giuseppe Spinelli.
It's unclear exactly what occurred at the meeting. A report in The Press in 1935 states that Bazzano was the guest of honor at a banquet, where fellow gangsters toasted him for the Volpe slayings. After the celebration, a few of those in attendance offered Bazzano a ride back to his hotel. Other reports said Bazzano was brought before the commission and asked to defend his actions, which were unsanctioned by the big bosses. Bazzano, these reports state, was less than convincing.
On August 8, 1932, Bazzano's corpse was found in a large sack in Brooklyn. His arms and legs had been trussed up by rope. A bloodstained white handkerchief was stuffed in the mouth. Rope burns marred the neck. An autopsy would reveal the man had been stabbed up to 20 times with an ice pick. According to some reports, he also had his tongue cut out.