Italian sauce and Jimmy Hoffa's secret

DETROIT DAYS

The Machus Red Fox restaurant, where Jimmy Hoffa vanished in July 1975, has closed.

The sign still stands over the parking lot from which the former Teamsters president was believed to have been abducted and later murdered by the Mafia. But the endearingly vulgar establishment in Detroit's swanky northern suburb of Bloomfield Hills is no more - shut down after its owner refused to renew the lease.

Now only a bakery remains, tucked away at the back. The Hoffa case might never have been. No plaque or faded FBI missing-person poster, nor even any graffiti to remind you of the most celebrated unsolved mysteries in recent US history

Or perhaps, unsolved until now - which brings us to the really sensational crime news in these parts. Last Friday, the Detroit papers were running classic "hold-the-front-page" banner headlines.

"FBI: MOB BUSTED," one screamed in three-inch type, before elaborating in more measured vein: "Alleged Mafia Boss Jack Tocco, 16 Leaders Indicted by Grand Jury For Extortion, Obstruction of Justice. 'We've driven a stake through the heart of Cosa Nostra,' say Feds." And if even half the charges stick, the Feds will have done precisely that.

The nationwide crackdown on the Mafia that has led to the indictment or conviction of organised crime bosses in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland has now reached Detroit, threatening the godfathers of the motor city with jail for the rest of their lives. Unless of course, they choose to talk. And no one among the 17 has more to tell than Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone.

Of the unprepossessing collection of jowly old men who were led into court for arraignment last week, Anthony Giacalone, now 77, may be one of the nastiest. For many years he was the Detroit family's chief "enforcer"' who made sure its orders were carried out.

But his real claim to fame lies elsewhere. He visited Jimmy Hoffa at his home two weeks before his disappearance, and was the man Hoffa told acquaintances he was going to meet at the Red Fox.

Some say Hoffa is entombed in the concrete masonry of a highway interchange in Pennsylvania, others that he was buried in a New Jersey landfill, or that his corpse was rendered for grease in a Mafia-owned factory. The FBI says the Hoffa case remains open. Now, just possibly, Giacalone will close it.

Even so you wonder, where does art end and life begin ? Assuming the indictments are only a quarter true, Tocco, Giacalone and the rest are an unlovely bunch of hoods. But in private life, they could have been taken straight out of Hollywood central casting.

Take Tocco, now 69 and long a resident of the wealthy suburb of Grosse Pointe Park. His criminal record consists of a $25 misdemeanour fine 30 years ago, for attending an illegal cockfight. Neighbours have described him as "kind and generous, a great guy", who would give them tomatoes and zucchini from his garden.

Tocco's underboss Anthony Zerilli, son of one of the men who founded the Detroit Mafia when it smuggled booze across the river from Canada in prohibition times, lives in a farmhouse with a trampoline and swing set outside the back door. His wife once cried when he was acquitted on extortion charges, and he tells acquaintances: "We are people just like everyone else."

As for "Tony Jack", he reputedly loves flowers and keeps "the most beautiful lawn in the neighbourhood". His brother Vito's wife insists that her husband, also indicted last week, is merely a "retired fruit-seller". She told the newspaper: "I'm waiting for him to come home and explain it all."

If it sounds reassuring, in an odd way it is. Don't bother us and we won't bother you, is the Mafia's social contract - almost a friendship treaty in this age of random violence. And who takes Cosa Nostra very seriously these days? Not the average citizen, who is far more alarmed by the crack cocaine business, drive-by shootings and the gang wars which made Detroit a byword for urban mayhem in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tocco and his colleagues, by contrast, seem to have preferred old-fashioned pursuits like illegal betting, protection rackets, loan-sharking, and the odd investment in Las Vegas. Cautious and discreet even by Mafia standards, the Detroit organisation has avoided the bloody internal feuds which helped bring down John Gotti in New York. Here the factions didn't shoot each other, they married into each other.

For the time being, Tocco and his colleagues are out on bail of up to $200,000 each -"just like paying a parking ticket", one said as he left the courthouse last week.

Probably, if they are put away for good, modern Detroit will hardly notice. Except, of course, for those still intrigued by how, and at whose hand, Jimmy Hoffa met his end.

Rupert Cornwell

Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
Sport
Vincenzo Nibali rides into Paris on the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France
Tour de FranceVincenzo Nibali is first Italian winner since Marco Pantani in 1998
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Sport
Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo (C) celebrates with Scuderia Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso (L) and Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton
sport
Arts and Entertainment
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmComedy was dominated by the romcom at its most insufferable
Sport
Tour de France competitor Bartosz Huzarski’s legs have highlighted the gruelling nature of the race, after he posted a picture on Facebook showing extremely prominent veins stretching from his feet and all the way up his legs
Commonwealth Games
Life and Style
Elle Kaye demonstrates the art of taxidermy
food + drinkFood revolution taken a step further in new ‘edible taxidermy’ class
News
A rub on the tummy sprang Casey back to life
video
Sport
Halsall broke her personal best in the 50m butterfly
Commonwealth GamesEnglish swimmer is reborn after disastrous time at London 2012
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Voices
The Express offices in the 1930s when writers (such as Orwell) were paid around £2 weekly
voicesWebsites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
A cut above: Katy Guest at The Ginger Pig
food + drinkThe Ginger Pig's hands-on approach to primary cuts
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst

£30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Commercial Litigation

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried