Salvatore 'Sal' Tessio is a fictional character from the novel and movie series The Godfather, where he was one of Don Vito Corleone's most trusted friends and also his caporegime, ruling over the family's territory in Brooklyn.
A Sicilian born youth raised in New York, Tessio married his wife Lucille in 1908.
Tessio began with his friends Peter Clemenza and Vito Corleone as low-level hoodlums in New York City's Little Italy. He was already known in the neighborhood as being both savvy and dangerous, and yet, he had connections from an early age, being good friends with gunsmith Augustino Coppola.
When the three owed money to Don Fanucci, Tessio was the first to concede with Vito's plan of giving the Don considerably less than they had agreed. Shortly after, both men understood that Fanucci had been murdered by Vito, but never mentioned it to him.
Position of Power
It was Tessio who played a major part in the Olive Oil War, personally executing enemy Don, Giuseppe Mariposa. As Vito rose to prominence in the Mafia underworld, Tessio and Clemenza rose with him, each eventually settling into the Caporegime roles. However, Vito informed the two men not to meet together socially, telling them it was a security precaution. Tessio understood immediately that it was merely to prevent the two from plotting against their boss and complied. He was present at Vito Corleone's surprise birthday party in 1941, having supplied the cake.
Tessio owned a social club in Brooklyn and made it his base of operations. From there, he managed his soldiers and was very well-connected throughout the borough. Most federal investigators considered Tessio the smarter and savvier of the two capos, though he had mellowed considerably in the decade of peace since the Olive Oil War. In fact, many groups believed that Tessio ran a separate organization. This was used to the family's advantage several times.
Regime and role in the war
His regime included soldiers Nick Geraci, Momo Barone and Eddie Paradise. Tessio was initially the more trusted of the two capos during the war with the Five Families (having to chose whether the traitor in the family was Clemenza or Paulie Gatto), and was issued the task of assassinating Bruno Tattaglia and helping Michael Corleone with the assassination of Virgil Sollozzo.
Tessio thought more of Vito's younger son Michael than Clemenza or Tom Hagen did, but never believed he was powerful enough to keep the family going after he was named his father's heir. After the Barzinis began chipping away at their territories, Tessio and Clemenza asked for vengeance, but Michael ordered them to wait. Around this time, the aging capo developed symptoms of Parkinson's Disease.
Ultimately, Tessio began plotting against Michael. At Don Corleone's funeral, Tessio arranged for Michael's assassination at a peace summit set up by Emilio Barzini, who had become the strongest Don in New York. The summit was to be held on Tessio's territory in Brooklyn, where Michael would supposedly be safe. In return, Tessio would inherit the Corleone family. However, Michael had anticipated the plot by way of a warning from his father, who intimated that the person who approached him about the peace summit would be the family traitor. Tom initially thought the traitor would be Clemenza, but Michael was not surprised, since Tessio was always the smarter one.
As Tessio and Hagen were preparing to attend the summit, Cicci told him that Michael was coming in a separate car. Tessio was visibly upset, saying that it threw off his "arrangements". Hagen says he can't come along either, while Willie Cicci and several of Clemenza's men surround Tessio. Realizing that Michael has found out about his treachery, Tessio asked Tom to tell Michael that it was "only business" and he always liked him. Tessio then asked Tom if he could get him off the hook for "the old times' sake". Tom rejected his appeal.
Willie Cicci and a few other men drove Tessio to Two Toms, his social club, where his traitorous men were executed. Tessio, and his dead co-conspirators were then brought to an abandoned gas station on Staten Island where he was executed by his former protege Nick Geraci, while Al Neri looked on. His death was attributed to the Barzini family, since Staten Island was their territory, which explained the death of Don Barzini at the same time.