Vincenzo Terranova

Coney Island cabaret proprietor and half-brother of boss-of-bosses Giuseppe Morello.

Vincenzo Terranova

Vincenzo Terranova was born 19 May 1885 in Corleone, Palermo, Sicily.1 In 1893, he arrived in New York from Corleone with his family including his mother, father, four sisters, and his brothers Ciro and Nicola. They were joining their half-brother Giuseppe Morello, who had arrived a year earlier.2

The family stayed in New York for around a year but suffered from the lack of available work. They travelled to Louisiana to stay with a cousin, planting sugar cane before moving on to Bryan, Texas. The family worked in Texas as cotton pickers but left after two years when the family was hit with Malaria. In 1896, they arrived back in New York.3

Terranova, and his brother, Ciro, went to a New York school and helped at the family plastering business. After the “Barrel Murder” trial finished in 1903, the whole Morello family were searched and hounded on a regular basis. One night, Terranova was travelling home from work with his brother Ciro, nephew Colagero, and Nick Sylvester when they were all arrested and kept overnight.4

Terranova was arrested in May 1906. The mother of Ellen Krooman, who lived in Bath Beach, complained he had lured her daughter from the family home.5 He was arrested again in September 1908, in connection with the murder of “Diamond” Sam Sicca but was never charged. 6

Marriage to Bernarda Reina
Marriage to Bernarda Reina on 23 July 1913

Terranova appeared at the Coney Island court in 1915, after being caught speeding on Ocean Parkway with Louis Lone.7

In 1917, Ralph Daniello testified against his former Navy Street gang members. His revelations about murders committed by the gang led to the arrest of Terranova and his brother Ciro. They were both connected to the 1916 killing of Giuseppe Demarco, a gambler who had previously been an ally their ally.8 Terranova was acquitted in June 1918.9

In 1919, Terranova managed the Pollaccia Brothers Restaurant, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. The restaurant was likely owned by Saverio Pollaccia, later consigliere to Giuseppe Masseria. The venue hosted a Labor Day banquet organized by Brooklyn gangster Frankie Yale.10 Terranova later ran Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn, a popular Coney Island dance hall.11 Artists booked to play at the Harvard Inn included a then-unknown Jimmy Durante. Another performer later recalled how he had lost money gambling with a young Al Capone, who worked as the club’s bouncer.12

Terranova, and his brother Ciro were arrested in November 1919. Two convicts held in Dannemora prison implicated them in the murder of two Harlem businessmen. Others arrested included Vincenzo Galliano (21) 225 East 107th, Charles “Whitey Lewis” Leggio (26) 217 East 107th, Patsy “Bones” Congro (23) 115 East 107th, and Angelo Gagliano (30) 227 East 107th.13 

The first case related to the August 1918 killing of grocer Ferdinand LaRazeno of East 108th Street, who was killed as three masked men attempted to rob his store.14 The second case was the killing of Nathan Fine, who was killed in October 1918, when he was robbed of his company’s $1,700 payroll on East 107th Street.15

Terranova was assassinated in May 1922. He was gunned down in East 116th Street.16

Vincenzo Terranova death certificate
Vincenzo Terranova death certificate
  1. (Managed by Justin Cascio) Accessed 06-07-22 ⇡
  2. Ship: Alsatia. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 (Mar 8, 1893)
    Ship: SS La Bourgogne. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 (May 9, 1892 )  ⇡
  3. Trial transcripts of the US Circuit Court for the District of New York, 1790 – 1912. USA vs. Giuseppe Calicchio et al.  (Ciro Terranova testimony)  ⇡
  4. ibid.  ⇡
  5. New York Times. May 29, 1906. p.5. New York Herald. May 29, 1906. p.7.  ⇡
  6. Calicchio et al.  (Ciro Terranova testimony)
    The Morning Telegraph. May 9, 1922. p.5  ⇡
  7. The Standard Union (Brooklyn) Aug 30, 1915. p.3
    The Standard Union (Brooklyn) Sep 8, 1915. p.7 ⇡
  8. The Sun. New York. Dec 1, 1917. p.22 ⇡
  9. The Evening World. Jun 8, 1918. p. 10 ⇡
  10. The Standard Union (Aug 29, 1919) 
    Critchley, David (2009) The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia, 1891 – 1931. New York: Routledge. 211 
    U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (hereafter referred to as NARA), RG 87, Daily Reports of Agents, (hereafter referred to as DRA). New York. Vol. 66. (Dec 6, 1919)  ⇡
  11. The Billboard (Jul 3, 1920) 56 
    The Brooklyn Standard Union (Sep 7, 1920) p.9 ⇡
  12. Olean Times-Herald (Mar 24, 1942) p.9 
    New York Evening Post (Oct 15, 1941) Movies Section ⇡
  13. The Sun. New York. Nov 20, 1919. p.9 ⇡
  14. New York Tribune. Aug 8, 1918 p.5 ⇡
  15. New York Tribune. Oct 8, 1918. p.6 ⇡
  16. Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle (May 8, 1922)  ⇡