Frank Zito and the Zito brothers (organized crime)

Frank Zito, usually characterized as “Springfield’s godfather,” remains a fabled figure in the history of Springfield organized crime decades after his death. He attended the notorious Apalachin, N.Y., conference of Mafia chieftains, seriocomically invoked the Fifth Amendment before a Congressional investigating committee, and reputedly ran local rackets with a murderous hand.

Frank Zito in the 1960s

Frank Zito in the 1960s (State Journal-Register; used by permission)

It’s now possible, however – thanks to the recent availability of searchable online newspaper files — to examine Zito’s record in more detail, especially his early life, and get a better understanding of his roles in Springfield and his status in organized crime generally.

Newspaper stories reveal that, despite his criminal reputation, Zito regularly took part in church and charitable efforts and that he apparently lived a conventional, thoroughly unthreatening private life.

What’s more, the newspaper files refocus attention on Zito’s three brothers, all of whom also were allegedly involved in liquor, gambling and associated criminal enterprises, and disclose that the Zito reach extended to Rockford as well as Springfield. In fact, when it came to Mafia connections, Frank Zito may not even have been the most influential member of his own family.

In birth order, the  Zitos were: Sam (1889-1978); Frank (1893-1974); Tony (1900-99); and Joseph “Diamond Joe” (1906-81). All were born near Palermo, Sicily; the brothers, who were among 11 children of Giuseppe and Lorenza Zito, apparently emigrated individually to the U.S. as young men – Frank Zito in 1910, according to later testimony before a Congressional investigating committee.

The two oldest brothers, Sam and Frank, first came to public attention because of incidents in Benld, where many Italian coal miners lived.

Sam was charged in 1914 with using the mail to extort $1,000 from an Italian businessman, allegedly threatening the victim via a letter decorated with a dagger and cross. The next year, a Benld miner who had been stabbed and robbed of $10 gave a deathbed statement identifying Frank Zito and another man as his assailants. Zito and the alleged accomplice were set for trial in Macoupin County in early 1917; however, the trial was postponed several times, and the charges eventually were dismissed “with leave to reinstate.” They were never reinstated. (Editor’s note: this paragraph has been updated.) 

Early years in Springfield

Frank Zito moved to Springfield about 1920, he told the Congressional panel. That is generally confirmed by the 1921 and 1922 city directories, which have him living and selling soft drinks at 930 E. Carpenter St.

That’s also when Zito began to make news for Prohibition violations and other crimes. In 1922, Zito and another man were arrested after taking delivery of four 40-gallon stills and other distilling “paraphanalia,” as the Illinois State Register spelled it in a May 3 story. Zito already had one conviction for illicit liquor and was awaiting trial on a second when federal agents made the new arrest, the newspaper said, “and on this offense, the penitentiary sentence will be asked.”

That prison term never came to pass, perhaps because the local court system was so jammed with liquor cases. In November 1922, the Illinois State Journal reported that Frank and Sam Zito were merely two of 140 people who were slated for trial in connection with Prohibition violations.

The 1925 city directory continued to list Frank Zito as operating a grocery at 930 E. Carpenter St. (Zito’s purported occupation changed often over the years. At various times, he was reported to be a coal miner, a real estate salesman, a “broker,” the manager of a cab company, and involved in an unspecified way with the Otis Oil Co. By the 1950 city directory, Zito’s occupation was listed as “Modern Distributing Co.,” which officially distributed juke boxes and pinball and cigarette machines. That probably was Zito’s longest-lasting occupational association, although, no doubt for legal reasons, Lena and Nina Zito – the wives of Frank and Tony Zito, respectively – were officially the owners of Modern Distributing. By 1966, when he was 73 years old, the city directory listed Frank simply as “retired.”)

As the 1920s continued, Zito had a series of minor run-ins with authorities, the newspaper files show, but his businesses apparently prospered, and he made several overtures toward respectability, especially following his marriage to Lena Sgro in November 1924. The Zitos contributed $2 to a fund for victims of the Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925, bought a small “congratulations” ad in the newspaper when the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated, and hosted an ice-cream party in 1928 for “the little crippled children at the sanitarium at Riverton.”

In March 1930, Zito was even named chairman of a fundraising effort to build a new church for Italian Catholics in Springfield, the church of San Francesco D’Assisi (it never came to pass). By then, however, Zito had more pressing worries.

‘The Springfield conspiracy’

A month before the announcement of the church effort, federal prosecutors had revealed two massive liquor conspiracy indictments, both targeting major sugar distributors as well as mobsters and bootleggers.  One was filed against Corn Products Co. and Fleischmann Yeast, along with 41 individuals, many from Macoupin County. Defendants in the other were a grocery wholesaler, J.C. Hubinger Bros. of Keokuk, Iowa, and 39 people, mainly Sangamon County residents.

Frank Zito was charged in both cases. (Sam and Joe Zito also were named as defendants in the Hubinger indictment. Another Zito, Filippo, also was charged in that case; however, he was not one of the brothers, and Filippo’s relationship, if any, to Frank, Sam, Joe and Tony Zito is unclear.)

The firms were accused of selling massive quantities of sugar, used in liquor distilling, to the two bootlegging rings. Authorities said the Springfield ring distributed sugar from warehouses at 10th and Carpenter – Frank Zito’s old “soft drink” emporium – and Third and Carpenter streets to 21 area stills.

The supposed ringleader in the Corn Products/Fleischmann conspiracy was Benld bootlegger Dominic Tarro, who had mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before the charges were made public. His body, bound hand and foot, was found in the Sangamon River north of Springfield in May. Authorities theorized he had been killed to prevent him testifying in the sugar conspiracy case.

With Tarro out of the picture, the Corn Products/Fleischmann case – often referred to as the “Macoupin conspiracy” to distinguish it from the nearly simultaneous Hubinger “Springfield conspiracy” – never went to trial. The two corporations pleaded no contest and paid fines.

In the Springfield conspiracy, nine individuals and the Hubinger firm eventually went on trial. All were convicted. Hubinger Bros. was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and costs of the prosecution. Frank Zito, Vincent Salvo and Jasper Blanda (who also went by the name Jasper Calo), considered the ringleaders, were sentenced to the maximum penalty, two years in the Leavenworth federal penitentiary and $10,000 fines each. Four other defendants were sentenced to shorter terms in city jail, and two, including Sam Zito, were granted probation.

U.S. Attorney Walter Provine said the verdict would have “a far-reaching effect,” adding:

It opens a way to suppress the illegal traffic in liquor which, until this decision, has been inaccessible to the government in its efforts to enforce the national prohibition act.

The verdict is also an answer to the statement so frequently made that the ‘higher-ups’ are not prosecuted.

Zito and most of the others appealed, arguing, among other things, that women shouldn’t have been allowed to serve on the jury. (When the trial was held, state law provided that women were eligible to serve as jurors, and three women served on the Springfield conspiracy jury.  The state Supreme Court, however, found the woman-juror law unconstitutional about six weeks after the verdict was delivered.)

A federal appellate court upheld the convictions in 1933. “It was apparent that some of the jurors were women,” the court said, drily. “Had (the defendants) desired to challenge them upon that ground, they had an opportunity to do so.”  The full appellate court decision, which includes many other details of the case, can be read here.

Zito, Salvo and Blanda left Springfield for Leavenworth on Feb. 28, 1933. Zito’s Leavenworth term was the only time he was sentenced to prison, despite dozens of arrests, investigations and inquiries during his career in central Illinois. Coincidentally, the same edition of the Illinois State Journal that reported the incarceration of Zito, Salvo and Blanda also included a story about Illinois beginning the process of repealing its “dry laws.”

More information: See SangamonLink’s entry on Frank Zito’s Leavenworth prison record.


With Prohibition ended, Zito turned to gambling upon his release from prison, eventually operating through Modern Distributing Co., putatively owned by his wife, Lena, and sister-in-law, Nina. Nina’s husband Tony also was associated with the business.

Except for a couple of minor gaming arrests, Frank Zito mostly stayed out of newspaper headlines until the late 1940s. That didn’t necessarily mean he stayed away from organized crime, however. Authorities’ assessment of his involvement in the rackets was summarized in a series of questions leveled at Zito when he testified before U.S. Sen. John McClellan’s select committee investigating “improper activities in the labor or management field” on Feb. 11, 1959. The questioner was Bobby Kennedy, the committee’s chief counsel.

Mr. Kennedy. When did you move to Springfield? Just about when?

Mr. Zito. About 1920.

Mr. Kennedy. And there you started the Capital Products Co.?

Mr. Zito. I decline to incriminate myself.

Mr. Kennedy. And that was a supplier. You sold Italian products in Springfield?

Mr. Zito. I decline. I may incriminate myself.

Mr. Kennedy. And you had a distilling operation, also, for which this acted as a front?

Mr. Zito. I decline to. It may incriminate myself.

Mr. Kennedy. From 1919 to 1931 you operated 14 stills in the Springfield area?

Mr. Zito. I decline. I may incriminate myself.

Mr. Kennedy. By 1937 you were in control of practically every racket in the Springfield area?

Mr. Zito. I decline to. I may incriminate myself.

Mr. Kennedy. And by early 1940, through at least 1948, you were controlling the punchboards, the slot machines, the dice and the poker games in the Springfield area?

Mr. Zito. I decline to. It may incriminate myself.

Zito’s idiosyncratic syntax in invoking the Fifth Amendment followed a bit of low comedy at the start of his testimony. When Zito at first “refused” to answer questions on grounds of self-incrimination, McClellan rebuked him for not showing respect to the committee and recommended Zito use the word “decline” instead. Zito, claiming poor English language skills, still struggled. First he “reclined” to answer, and then he went back to “refuse.” Finally, Zito told the chairman, “I don’t mean I don’t want to said it. I can’t said it right.”

Zito’s full testimony can be read in the transcript of the committee proceedings; see “Contents” for page numbers.

It also should be noted that Kennedy botched at least one area of questioning, when he asked Zito if it was true that Zito had been shot in 1941. Zito, true to his lawyer’s instructions, declined to answer. The fact was, however, that Zito had not been shot – Kennedy’s investigators had linked Springfield’s Frank Zito to an unrelated incident involving a much younger Chicagoan, also named Frank Zito, who had survived being “taken for a ride” by a man linked to the old Capone mob.

Much of the information Kennedy did have apparently came from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation of Springfield vice published in 1948. The newspaper said Zito headed a syndicate that paid thousands of dollars a week in bribes in return for local authorities turning a blind eye to wide-open gambling and prostitution.

And the event that brought Zito to the attention of the investigating committee was his arrest while attending the famous 1957 meeting in Apalachin, N.Y. of Mafiosi from across the country. Ironically, however, Frank Zito may have been at the meeting only as a fill-in for his younger brother Joe, a high-ranking member of the Rockford mob (see below).

Zito’s visit to Apalachin also earned him a cameo appearance when then-influential newspaper columnist Drew Pearson listed Illinois’ leading mobsters in a Feb. 2, 1962 column.

Outside of Chicago, Pearson wrote, the most powerful underworld figure in Illinois is Frank Zito, whose balding, grey-fringed head, conservative clothes and scholarly appearance belie his violent background. He controls gambling, prostitution, and bookmaking in the Springfield and Sangamon areas, (and) attended the exclusive Apalachin meeting of crime bosses in 1957. His chief henchman is Vito Impastato who, according to the federal file on him, “gained his position through operating as a strongarm man and killer for Frank Zito.”

Impastato (1904-88), alleged to have been a member of St. Louis’ “Green Gang,” moved to Springfield around 1930. In addition to his alleged connection to Zito, Impastato was identified over the years as a suspect in crimes including kidnapping, bank robbery and, notably, the 1931 murder of gambler Charles Dawson in downtown Springfield.

However, convictions again were lacking, and Impastato eventually became known as the impresario of several local restaurants and nightclubs, among them the Supper Club, 2641 S. Sixth St., and the Orchid Lounge, 2715 S. Sixth St.

 The other Zitos

*Sam Zito went into the tavern business following his conviction in the Springfield conspiracy trial. After World War II, he and a partner, Tom Sigretto, opened a series of splashy nightclubs, including the North Grand Club at 11th Street and North Grand Avenue and the Skyrocket Inn at 2202 N. Peoria Road. He retired as owner of the Town Tavern, 115 N. Fifth St.

Tony Zito at the time of his deportation hearing in 1958 (State Journal-Register archives)

Tony Zito at the time of his deportation hearing in 1958 (SJ-R)

*Tony Zito, who arrived in the U.S. in 1922, remained one of brother Frank’s closest collaborators until Frank’s retirement. Tony’s wife Nina (ne Campo) remained part-owner of Modern Distributing after Frank and Lena Zito bowed out of the business in the 1950s, and Tony continued to work there.

Tony Zito had his own record of relatively minor firearms, gambling and income tax arrests, and he spent three years in prison in the 1940s for evading alcohol taxes. But the most serious charges against him derived from a massive explosion that destroyed two houses on North Seventh Street and damaged dozens of others on March 17, 1937. Zito was accused of being the ringleader in an arson/insurance fraud plot in the case, but charges were dropped after three juries failed to convict one of his supposed co-conspirators.

Authorities questioned both Tony and Frank Zito following the murder in 1957 of rival pinball operator James De Rosa, a killing made locally famous because a dog found De Rosa’s body and carried the head home to its owners.  Investigators later theorized De Rosa might have been slain during a robbery, since he was known to carry large amounts of cash, but no one was ever charged.

Tony Zito also survived a U.S. Immigration Service attempt to deport him in 1958, when federal scrutiny of the Zitos increased following Frank’s arrest in Apalachin.

*Joe Zito, the youngest brother, arrived in the U.S. in 1923. He was indicted, but – like most of those originally charged, including Filippo – not prosecuted in the Springfield conspiracy.

Joe Zito, undated (Rockford Register-Star)

Joe Zito, undated (Rockford Register-Star)

Joe Zito moved to Rockford in the 1930s and at some point acquired the nickname “Diamond Joe” because of what a 1984 Rockford Register-Star profile – published three years after Zito’s death – said was his liking for “flashy clothes and diamond rings.”

Also moving to Rockford about the same time, according to the profile, was Joe Zito’s brother-in-law, Jasper Blanda, one of the convicted leaders of the Springfield liquor conspiracy, who went by the name Jasper Calo in Rockford. Calo and Zito ostensibly operated a Rockford-area dairy, but they also became influential in the Rockford mob, Calo as underboss and Zito as “consigliere,” meaning senior adviser. Rockford Mafiosi, under boss Joe Zammuto, worked closely with Milwaukee’s Balistrieri family, authorities said.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, the FBI went to great lengths to try to convict Zito of organized crime activities, according to the 1984 story, but – like his brother Frank – Joe Zito avoided any major convictions. Frank Zito, however, may have inspired the FBI probe of Joe, the Register-Star reported:

The FBI’s interest began in January 1965 after investigators connected Zito … with his brother Frank, arrested at the mob conclave in Apalachin, New York. Federal authorities believe Joseph was to attend the meeting but because of poor health sent his brother instead.

Frank’s death

More than 1,000 people attended the wake for Frank Zito in August 1974. Neighbors on Illini Road, where Zito lived until a few years before he died, described him as a model citizen. (This sentence has been corrected; Zito moved to a home on Westchester Boulevard in 1971 — ed.) 

“I hardly ever saw him,” Carl Sorling told The State Journal-Register. “But you could look in the window and see a small religious figure where he prayed at home.”

More information: In addition to sources cited above, the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library has a useful file of post-1950 clippings related to Frank and Tony Zito, and the library’s collection of city directories is a valuable source of basic information.

The late Doug Pokorski, former president of the Sangamon County Historical Society, delivered a presentation on Frank Zito in 2002 that was later converted to an SCHS pamphlet, Frank Zito: Springfield’s Godfather, now out of print. Most of the pamphlet covers well-trod Zito ground, but it also includes speculation from an anonymous source that should be treated with caution. schs logo (2)

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.





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64 Responses to Frank Zito and the Zito brothers (organized crime)

  1. Sandy Baksys says:

    Because of my love for Italy (I have a degree in the Italian language), I have to say it’s a shame that these Zito immigrants had to get their start in America committing crimes against other immigrants (extorting Italian business owners, robbing and killing poor coal miners). So many of our forbears who arrived similarly poor and disadvantaged did not make a living through violence, though many were home-based, small-time bootleggers.

    • Dakota says:

      I’m a their great grand son think of that and I know nothing a bout them and my vincent was my grandmas dad but she was adopted and know nothing about him

      • editor says:

        Dakota: Surprisingly, none of the Zito brothers had children. Do you mean you’re the great-grandson of Vincent Salvo, one of those convicted along with Frank Zito in the so-called Springfield conspiracy?

        At any rate, thanks for reading.

        • Judy says:

          I have been told that I’m Frank Blackie Zito’s daughter.

          • editor says:

            Judy: If you want to send me more details (by private email), I’d be glad to look into it. Any documentation you have would be important. My email is

          • Jen says:

            Lena Sgro, the wife of Frank Zito, is my great aunt and they had no children together- so it would be impossible that you are the daughter of this Frank Zito. Perhaps you are the daughter of someone else with the same name.

            My father and his siblings grew up spending time frequently with their Uncle Frank and Aunt Lena, and as such, could confirm that they were unable to have children. My Uncle Frank has been described to me by my father as a truly good man. He treated his wife Lena with unwavering kindness and respect. Lena is remembered for her reserved personality and outstanding cooking.

          • editor says:

            Jen: Thanks for the comment. As far as I could determine, none of the Zito brothers had offspring. There are, however, many other Zitos throughout the U.S. As the entry notes, even Robert F. Kennedy, as a Congressional staff member, got his Frank Zitos mixed up.

  2. Joe Bartolomucci says:

    I remember as a kid my grandparents showing me great grandma Nunzia Bartolomucci’s wake registry where Mr Zito had signed it. They referred to him as “the black hand”. Stories were also shared about his underworld reputation, which us grand kids found fascinating at the time.

  3. Mary Lynn Aiello-Marrie says:

    Frank Zito was my dad’s (Jasper Aiello) real Godfather. I remember also hearing stories of my aunt Grace being in love with Frank Zito when she was a girl but her mother and father had arranged for her to marry another Italian from St. Louis who I knew as uncle Willie. Though I never got to meet Frank Zito his name came up frequently when I was a kid

    • editor says:

      Mary Lynn: Thanks for reading.

      • JP says:

        That would have to be William (Willie) Russo, who was a major St. Louis bootlegger and prominent member of a faction of the St. Louis Mafia. His wife’s name was Grace; he was related to the Aiellos of Springfield; and his boss, Vito Giannola, head of the St. Louis Mafia, was closely allied with Frank Zito. After Giannola was murdered in 1927, several of Giannola’s crime family members, including future Zito underboss Vito Impastato, moved to Springfield and transferred their membership to Zito’s crime family.

        • editor says:

          JP: The Giannola/Impastato connection is mentioned in passing in Daniel Waugh’s book, The Gangs of St. Louis: Men of Respect, and a quick Google search turned up this 1930 newspaper story that ties Willie Russo to the Aiellos. Thanks for the additional context.

          • JP says:

            It was strongly suggested in both Frank Zito’s and Vito Impastato’s FBI files, released to me under a FOIA act request, that Vito Impastato and Matteo (Matt) Manzella, another former St. Louis Mafia turn Springfield Mafia member, we’re the perpetrators in the gruesome Dominic Taro homicide. During the St. Louis Mafia war of 1927-28, both men hid out in Benld, Illinois, under Tarro’s protection. They, along with future St. Louis Mafia boss turn Chicago Mafia caretaker in Calumet City, Illinois, Frank Agrusa, who also hid out in Benld, terrorized that town while they were there, bullying locals.

  4. Bill Vetter says:

    When I was just short of 6 years old (1937), we heard a big explosion. (We lived at 10th and Carpenter). My mother and sisters and I went upstairs in our house to observe the fire raging on 7th Street. My dad headed over to 7th Street to see if he could help. On the way he passed Tony Zito coming from the explosion area heading toward his home which was close to ours, and they calmly expressed pleasantries. It was about 3:00 in the morning.

  5. M Reid says:

    My mom, her sister and her parents lived on Pennsylvania Ave right around the corner from Frank Zito’s house on Converse Ave and no one was allowed to walk on the sidewalk in front of his house–he had guards watching all the time. Mom had to cross the street and then back again to avoid his house on that corner in order to get to school. Everyone knew better than to get in Frank Zito’s way.

    • editor says:

      My wife and I used to drive past that house weekly when we delivered Daily Bread meals. It apparently was the first home the Zitos owned after they married. Nothing special about it, really, but it demonstrated that Mr. Zito was a young man on the rise. Thanks for reading, and thanks very much for the comment.

    • Cathy Rogers says:

      M. Reid
      Do you happen to remember the address or location on Converse Ave that the Zito’s lived? My Aunt and Uncle have lived on that street a couple houses from the fire house on 19th n Converse since I can remember. I still stop by to visit her. I wouldn’t mind just passing by his house and having a look. Thank you.

      • editor says:

        Ms. Rogers: I’m going on memory, but I believe it was on the northeast corner of 13th and Converse. I used to drive past it weekly; the house is a brick bungalow, as I recall — well kept, but nothing out of the ordinary for the neighborhood.

  6. Chris Randazzo says:

    My father told me that my grandmother Rose Licata was Frank Zito’s goddaughter. Interesting stories of my family coming to America with his from Palermo. He was remembered as a nice man. Attended my great grandmother’s funeral

    • editor says:

      Yes, at least outside his circle of “business” associates, Mr. Zito seems to have been universally considered a nice guy. Thanks for the comment.

  7. frank weitzel says:

    my grandfather did business with mr zito . he came walking into his restaurant and gave my grandfather a business propostion . my grandfather turned him down and said he didn’t want any trouble . mr zito assured my grandfather there would be no problems and he said he got a good deal from him . he insisted that zito take his share off the top to avoid confusion . granddad said he did make pretty good money . one time he went to collect from zito with one of the derosa brothers . zito stated that if he heard anymore threats from jimmy derosa , that there would be crying Italian widows . about three weeks later jimmy disappeared , and was later found dead out by Andrew Illinois. I asked why he didn’t say anything to the police , and he said that those peoples business , and that was their problem . my mother said she thought he was just a harmless old man.

    • editor says:

      Mr. Weitzel: Thanks for the recollection, and thanks for reading.

    • Scott L says:

      Do you know where Frank Zito’s grave is? Also, has there been any rumors on who took over the local mafia operation after Zito died? I know Vito Impastato lived until the late 80s and was a very feared man

  8. Linda (DeRosa) Giger says:

    James (Jimmy) DeRosa was my uncle and godfather. I have vague memories of him coming over to Grandma DeRosa’s, throwing me up in the air and catching me. Rumors were aplenty when he died….among them that every cop in town knew what had happened. I don’t really know any of the facts ……heard he was told to butt out of the pinball business as the mob owned it, but he didn’t listen. His business later became the Mel O Cream Donut Shop at the end of Logan and Jefferson? Can’t quite remember the east/west st. But I would walk down there sometimes on Sundays to pick up donuts for the family. We lived at 307 N. Logan Ave. Used to be my Grandparents house, now it’s a parking lot.

  9. Paul Wilson says:

    Has anyone ever heard of a mob figure in Springfield in the late 60’s-early 70’s named
    —- ——-? I met him once in a bar in Springfield.

    • editor says:

      Mr. Wilson: As you see, I’ve edited out the name of the person you asked about. There was someone around town by that name in the ’60s and ’70s — might still be, for that matter — and he had kids who also could well live in this area. But I found no public indication that he was ever involved in any criminal activity. Using his name in this connection might create legal problems for both you and SangamonLink and, more importantly based on what I know, it wouldn’t be fair to him and his family. (I’d be glad to discuss this further, but if you want to follow up, please do so via my private email, We can be more candid there.)

  10. Clay says:

    Frank Zito was the godfather to my Grandmother Gilda Bucci (Parker). She has told me stories of “Uncle Frank”, and his “driver” Vito Impastato my entire life. She has always spoken very fondly of Frank.

    My cousins, and I are trying to close the loops on our Great Grandfather. According to my grandmother, Frank Zito “was like a brother” to him. It’s been very difficult for us to find any information on our Great Grandfather and his relashionship to the Zito’s, and the Impastatos. If anyone knows anything about our Great Grandfather, or can help us, his name is Gaido Bucci.

    There are still quite a lot of us Bucci’s in Springfield.

    • Tony says:

      I was told my grandpa was apart of the mafia rosario thomas zito but parents left so he was adopted as a neth and left the mafia side alone but was forced to family reunions and my dad was showing me picutres with him and the mobsters dressed in boating-ish outfits with big cigars

  11. Tony says:

    I was told my grandpa was apart of the mafia rosario thomas zito but parents left so he was adopted as a neth and left the mafia side alone but was forced to family reunions and my dad was showing me picutres with him and the mobsters.

  12. Tony says:

    If my papa was never adopted my last name should have been zito

  13. Dan Rabin says:

    I grew up in Springfield. When I was 14 my dad got me a summer job for Alstar a pinball jukebox distributor. At one point I would go with a women that worked there to pick up bags of money from the machines. I always remember in some of these business had no signs on them. Some looked like residents places. Later the owner, my father’s client was sent to jail that had something to do with taxes and I think rackateering. I remember machine guns on the owners desk and big burly bikers that did the machine delivery. I didn’t really think much of it then. The only thing I was interested in was I got to play free video games and I would pick through the 45s for the stereo equipment I was working for that summer.

  14. Louis Kink says:

    My great grandpa was Pete LaRocca. Do you have any information about him. My grandma didn’t talk about him

    • editor says:

      Mr. Kink: I don’t have a lot on Pete LaRocca, but what I do makes it pretty clear why your grandmother didn’t like to talk about him. He was killed in a wild shootout over in Christian County in 1932. I’m going to email you a couple of old newspaper articles, and I’ll probably follow up with a SangamonLink entry about the shootout (it involved several Springfield gangsters, including, I’m afraid, your great-grandfather). Thanks for reading.

  15. Louis kink says:

    Thank you so much for the information, i actually look forward to reading the articles.

  16. Louis Kink says:

    How do I find out where my great grandpa LaRocca is buried? My grandma would never tell us, so I am told by my parents.

  17. Louis kink says:

    Thank you!

  18. Carolyn Johnson says:

    What was Frank’s address on Illini? Is the house still there?

  19. Carolyn Johnson says:

    Frank Zito was listed at an address on Westchester at his death, not Illini. Is there a clarification? I would like to know if the house on Illini still stands, if he ever lived there.

    • editor says:

      Ms. Johnson: The next time I go to Lincoln Library, I’ll be sure to check the old city directories. As you may know, it’s possible to visit the library now, but it takes an appointment. I’ll need to go there soon, but I don’t know the timetable yet. Thanks for your questions.

      • Carolyn Johnson says:

        Thanks! I’m in Texas, so I appreciate you looking into that. Several generations of my family are from Spfld. My dad used to take me to The Supper Club, and was associated with Allen’s Cigar Store in the 60’s. His grandfather, John Kohlbecker, was the bookkeeper and supposedly lived in a large home, south of the Country Club. So Im interested in that area. Nobody seems to be able to locate the address of that home where he lived in the 60’s. Apparently, not something the average bookkeeper could afford….

  20. Elizabeth says:

    Carolyn, it’s possible that the house number may no longer exist for one reason or another. It could from renumbering (2 becomes 4, etc) or it could be that the house was demolished and replaced with a new home (and possibly new street number).

    As far as the Westchester address that you mentioned–what is mentioned in Zito’s death notice–is still standing and according to Sanagmon County Tax records, was built in 1971.

  21. Paul Schanbacher says:

    Southwest corner of Hackberry Lane & Illini Rd., If I remember correctly.

  22. john meyer says:


    Frank Zito was on my paper route when he lived on Illini Road at Hackberry. As I remember, he had a sort of garden in the front yard and now and again I would hand him his paper when he was out tending the plants. My memory is that he was always polite to a young kid on a bicycle.
    When I saw the Marlon Brando and grandson in the garden scene from the Godfather, I was immediately taken back to my memories of Illini Road.

  23. Charly smarjesse says:

    Springfield Illinois wouldn’t have become a dead spot in Illinois if the Zito brothers and Vito Impastato were still running the show . The corruption the state leaders are involved in ,,,,,,,, only helps themselves . The bargain the Family made with the inhabitants of sangamon county ,,,,,,,,,,, helped the people , made the place better and safer , brighter and more hospitable.Illinois has lowered the human standard bar to a point ,,,,,,,,, that only public serpents ,,,,,,, I mean servants ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,can cross it . Fight back “ folks “ ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, you have nothing to lose but the chains that bind you .

  24. Tina says:

    Very interesting. Love all the comments. Our last name is Dinora and I was never able to meet my father’s side of the family because my mother insisted they were involved with the mob and she didn’t want us connected with them. And then my father is telling me that if back in the fifties and sixties you have the last name Dinora then you were going to be related to our family because there were so few in the US. We love our stories :-)

  25. david Walker says:

    I believe my grandfather, James, worked for the Zito bros. At one time, collecting money from coin machines, this is all that I know Bout this?

  26. Jacqueline Beggs says:

    Hello. I’m looking into a family story about my cousin Gilbert Bryant. He was born around 1910. He lived in Sangamon, Springfield, Illinois. When I was about 11 years old, around 1952 to the best of my memory, I visited Gilbert with my parents. He was hiding out in California. My parents said he had been hit by the mob. His leg was gone. I just figured out that a man named Phil Leon or Phill Leone, was Gilbert’s boss in a Tavern in Sangamon (military WWII draft record). I’m trying to figure out when exactly Gilbert died. His family took him from California. I’m not sure where he went.

    Gilbert’s cousin is Thomas Cody Bryant born about 1901 in Kentucky. Thomas was a miner. He was a pal of his cousin Gilbert and was said to have been a Bootlegger. We lost touch with our uncle Thomas Cody who was last heard of in 1942 in Cooks County, Chicago Illinois. Family story says he also died in odd circumstances. Any ideas on how to find the Tavern where Gilbert worked? All help appreciated and I really enjoyed this forum. Jackie

    • editor says:

      Ms. Beggs: It looks like Gilbert Bryant worked at the Pad nightclub, which was east of the state fairgrounds. It indeed was a notorious gambling spot with seriouus mob connections. But according to a lawsuit Mr. Bryant filed in 1949, he hurt his leg when he tripped on uneven flooring in the place. I’m emailing you a newspaper page about the filing of the lawsuit. There doesn’t seem to have been a story about how it came out (which isn’t unusual; a lot of legal cases just kind of disappear from newspaper coverage). Also, here’s a link to a SangamonLink entry that has more about gambling at the Pad.

      • Jacqueline Beggs says:

        Thank you so much! I read the articles and I find it very strange that Gilbert Bryant would sue the three owners of Club Pad who seem to be very connected to the Mob in Sangamon under Frank Zito, especially co-owner Jack Impasato. I mean, why would you sue the Mob? But I do think it explains why Gilbert was in the hide-out where I saw him in California around 1951. Why would lawyer James H. Mann even take the case? Because the judge declared Gilbert Bryant a “poor man.” I’m sure there is more to this puzzle and I hope I can find all the pieces but, if not, this has really helped fill the picture in.

  27. Susan Graham says:

    Did any of the Zitos end up in Tampa Florida? Because there was a man name Jim Zito who had a Venetian Blind business, and he was considered a bit of a mobster and had shady dealings. I understand he had a younger brother name Joe. Also, just because it’s not on “record” that they didn’t have children doesn’t mean they didn’t. I also wonder how many immigrants joined their ranks out of fear and gave up their own identities to join the Zito family. I know of Syrians and Cubans who were afraid to be labeled as “communist “ so they took on Italian names or let people think they were Italian. Idk

    • editor says:

      Ms. Graham: Zito is a pretty common Italian name. I know of no reason to think there’s a connection between the Tampa and Springfield Zitos, but we appreciate your reading SangamonLink.

  28. JZ says:

    I think it’s interesting that it is mentioned that Zito is a popular Italian name. I’m a Zito, and never heard of another until we saw political signs in the late 80s. My people were from Cleveland, but I always wondered if there was any distant relation. Most people came out of Palermo. It’s like someone from the burbs saying you’re from Chicago. Also, I am curious if DNA matches have ever been explored. Thanks for this history.

  29. cz says:

    My last name zito.. i have an uncle salvatore zito (85 years old) who had siblings he stopped speaking too prior to moving from italy..does anyone have older relatives who speak about a lost brother? thanks

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