Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Real Life Sopranos

Silvio Dante

Actor Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante
Actor Steven Van
Zandt as Silvio Dante
Tommy Ricciardi was the mob experts choice for the real-life wiseguy who most resembled Silvio Dante, Tony Sopranos consigliere (counselor). As played by actor Steven Van Zandt (who also happens to be a member of Bruce Springsteens E-Street Band), Silvio runs the Bada Bing Club, the strip joint that serves as one of the main hangouts for Tony and his crew. According to The Sopranos: A Family History, Silvios role in the crime family seems to be bookmaking, collecting loanshark receipts, and helping Tony negotiate deals and mediate disputes. Basically Silvios a can-do kind guy who makes things happen. But unlike some of the other members of Tonys crew, Silvio will usually try to negotiate first. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, hes more than willing to get his hands dirty. For instance, he was the wiseguy who blew up Tonys friend Artie Buccos restaurant to prevent a mob hit from taking place there. For Silvio, when words dont work, gunpowder does.

Before his 1993 murder conviction, Tommy Ricciardi was the top enforcer for the Lucchese crime familys New Jersey faction. Tall, slender, with natural good looks, Ricciardi was in actuality the kind of honorable man Silvio Dante believes he is. The television mobster, like his real-life counterpart, likes to dress well in wiseguy chic, and they both carry themselves with a dont-mess-with-me swagger.

Vincent 'Jimmy Sinatra' Craparotta, victim
Vincent 'Jimmy
Sinatra' Craparotta,
Ricciardis negotiating skills were a bit blunter than Silvios, and his version of conflict resolution was more hands on. In 1984 Ricciardi was asked to send a message to Vincent Craparotta, the uncle of two brothers who owned the video poker factory on the Jersey shore. They wanted a piece of that company, and they wanted Craparotta to convince his nephews that they should cooperate. Wielding golf clubs, Ricciardi and an associate paid a visit to Craparotta one morning. Their intention was to scare the man, but things got out of hand, and Craparotta ended up dead, beaten to death with a nine iron. In 1993, Ricciardi, boss Michael Taccetta, and others stood trial on a variety of charges stemming from the familys attempt to extort the Joker Poker company. Ricciardi alone was convicted of the murder.

A type of video poker machine (AP)
A type of video poker machine (AP)
Prior to that trial, Ricciardi did show a willingness to put words before bullets when the order came down from the Lucchese leadership in New York to Whack New Jersey! He and former boss of the New Jersey faction Anthony Accetturo met with big boss Vic Amuso and underboss Anthony Gaspipe Casso at Newark International Airport to resolve their differences.

Vic Amuso
Unfortunately the meeting did little to defuse the situation; the contract remained in force, even after Amuso and Casso later went underground to avoid arrest. Acting New York boss Alphonse Little Al DArco took over for the fugitive bosses and was determined to carry out the contract on the Garden State gangsters, including Ricciardi who resorted to hiding guns in the bushes around his home, fearing an ambush. Ricciardi went so far as to clear the woods across the street from his Dover Township, New Jersey, horse farm to eliminate possible hitmen hiding places.

While at home, he took to wearing an Uzi submachine gun attached to a string around his neck.

Alphonse "Little Al"
D'Arco (surveillance
Author Allen Rucker in The Sopranos: A Family History says Dante Silvio will never flip on Tony. Hes loyal to the core. The television character did not follow his real-life counterpart in this respect. After Ricciardis murder conviction, he turned states witness and received a reduced sentence. As part of the terms of his arrangement with prosecutors, Ricciardi had to tell everything he knew about organized crime in the Garden State, and he had no trouble coughing up what he knew about Michael Taccetta, his former childhood friend and bitter enemy.

From Taccettas point of view, Ricciardi is a rat who violated his Mafia oath and betrayed his crime family to save his own hide. But Ricciardi saw it differently. The mob had been deteriorating for years. The old traditions were evaporating and so was the Mafias old sense of honor. Taccetta was symptomatic of the new level of greed and opportunism that was corroding the Mob, and Ricciardi couldnt live with that anymore. He could no longer defend an organization whose leadership he didnt respect.

Ricciardi served his sentence under witness protection and has been released.


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