South Brooklyn Vendetta or Mafia? 1896 Part II

Cocchiara Tries To Escape His Enemies in Europe and South America

Cocchiara resolved that his only safety lay in flight. Accordingly, November 17 of last year he bade goodbye to his wife and children and fled from Boston, telling her not to write to him, though he would communicate with her. He came to New York and took a steamer for Bremen. There he entered the Italian colony, but had hardly been there two weeks when he had reason to believe that he had been tracked. Unmistakable signs of dislike were shown to him by those who had befriended him when he first arrived and one night he overhead the word Prestijiacamo spoken. This was the name of his most persistent enemy in Boston. it was quite enough to make him leave the vicinity of Bremen. He asked the little coterie of friends he had made not to believe him the traitor they might hear he was and started once more on his travels.

He went to Belgium and finally to Buenos Ayres. At this last place, according to his story, another attempt was made upon his life when he had been there hardly a month. This time he told no one of his plan of leaving and sneaked off at night, working his way to Virginia on a tramp steamer.

Cocchiara is a very strong man, speaks English very well and reads and writes the language. He knows considerable about what is going on and is interested in American politics. He is a good talker and a quiet appearing man. It was not long, therefore, before he had made many friends in the Virginia town he stopped in. So well did he get along, in fact, that he resolved to send for his wife and children, with whom he had been in communication.

He could not ask them to travel alone all that distance and suddenly remembered his old friend, Salvatore Serrio in Brooklyn. The tow had been together a great deal until Serrio married and moved from Italy to Boston and then to Brooklyn, opening up a shop here at 260 Hamilton avenue.

Cocchiara came to Brooklyn and took up his residence with Serrio. This was about three weeks ago. Cocchiara had saved money and asked Serrio if he might stay with him until his wife came on from Boston. Serrio was delighted and his wife was pleased to see her husband with Cocchiara again, as she said that Cocchiara was a quiet, good man, and knew a great deal. He was kind to her and when Serrio wished to leave his shop, Cocchiara took care of it for him, and he was no ordinary barber. Meantime the two cronies talked about Virginia and Serrio liked the descriptions of the place given by Cocchiara so well that he resolved to leave with his friend and go into partnership in a barber shop with him the Southern city. It was decided they should leave last Monday and dry goods boxes and barrels were being packed for the departure. Cocchiara wrote to his wife in Boston to join him in Brooklyn on Saturday last.

Cocchiara's Enemies Track Him to Brooklyn

Meantime his enemies in Boston had been on the lookout for their victim, who, if Cocchiara's story be true, had eluded them at Buenos Ayres and had succeeded in covering up his tracks. In some way it was learned that he was in Brooklyn. Perhaps a letter found on Cocchiara when he was arrested last week may throw some light on the subject. it was addressed to Salvatore Serrio and was written to Cocchiara by his wife. it had a postscript signed by Micela, who was employed by Cocchiara in his Boston shop. It read as follows:

Your letters always say you do not trust me any more. I do not know why. Antonio can tell you all about me. I could not work in the old shop, and wanted to find another place, but could not leave because the society would make trouble. For a while the thing must go as it has gone. I hope I can make a good show to you. The wife of the boss, Sarah, will be the witness to see if I disappoint you.

Cocchiara has nothing to say about the veiled illusions in this letter.

Cocchiara had been but little over a week in the South Brooklyn colony of Italians, when two strangers appeared and made their headquarters in the little wine shop kept by Joseph Catanazaro at 92 Union street. This saloon is really a very tidy and attractive little place, and not at all the gruesome dive that might be imagined from the stories told of it. It is in the basement of a three story tenement house, but the front is all glass, and, though one descends three or four steps to enter the place, it is light and airy and kept clean and neat. Catanazaro is prosperous and wears good clothes. In fact, he is quite an autocrat among his people in South Brooklyn. His saloon, therefore, is a general meeting place for moderately well to do Italians, and the little back room is a rendezvous for congenial spirits, who sit at the little tables there and sip Chianti while they tell stories of sunny fatherland.

The bar is in the front room. Back of this is a private room and a door, through which may be seen the rear room. This back apartment has large windows, is about 8 feet square, and its walls are of thin pine and are kept shining by persistent cleaning. Indeed, this little back room of Catanazaro's saloon is hardly the place one would imagine should be the scene of such a tragedy as took place there on Thursday a week ago.

One day a stranger, who gave his name as Nino Prestijiacamo, made his appearance there and brought with him a friend who was known simply by the name of Pedro. Not one of the Italian colony seem to have known him by any other name, nor very much of him anyway. Prestijiacamo, it seems, was subsequently recognized by several as an important resident of the Boston colony. He inquired where one Serrio lived, and in time made his acquaintance. In fact he became quite intimate with the kind hearted Italian barber before the real subject of his visit was broached.

Continue with Part III


Website: The History
Article Name: South Brooklyn Vendetta or Mafia? Part II 1896
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 7, 1896
Time & Date Stamp: