A one-time top-ranked Bonanno family mobster Tuesday described the Huntington Hilton on Long Island as his number one choice for gang-related business -- from sit-downs with other families to secret induction ceremonies -- in Brooklyn federal court testimony.
"It's close to home," said Salvatore "Good Looking Sal" Vitale, a former underboss from Dix Hills who pleaded guilty to 11 murders and is now in the witness protection program. "I used the gym. I knew everyone in the management. It was centrally located."
Vitale, 64, testified at the murder and racketeering trial of accused former Colombo family street boss Thomas "Tommy Shots" Gioeli, 59, of Farmingdale, who is charged with playing a part in six mob hits during the 1990s.
Tuesday's testimony did not tie Gioeli to any murders, but Vitale -- who has made several previous appearances in mob trials -- peppered his testimony with references to a half-dozen Long Island locations as he briefed jurors on mob customs and described Gioeli's rise to power in the Colombo family.
The Hilton hotel, Vitale said, was a favorite Bonanno location for initiating new wiseguys into the family and swearing them to fealty to the mob code as they held hands in a circle. "I would get a suite of rooms," he testified. "I knew people there. I would rent it for a day."
He also identified the Hilton as the location of two key meetings with Gioeli in the mid-1990s -- the place where a Colombo consigliere first asked Vitale to discuss interfamily business with Gioeli, only a captain at the time, and later the site of a sit-down where Gioeli asked if the Bonannos would support initiation of new Colombo members, which New York's other mob families had frozen because of a violent internal Colombo war.
But he also recalled friendlier meetings, one at the Liberty Diner on Route 110, and another at the now-closed Van Leesen's ice cream parlor in Farmingdale, where Gioeli complained that a Bonanno mobster was trying to move in on a nearby location with Colombo Joker Poker machines.
After Vitale said his family would back off, he testified, Gioeli lit up a cigarette and moaned about his growing responsibilities: "These people want me to run the family, but I don't think they understand I have a young wife."
"Tommy," Vitale said he responded, "jump in. The water's fine."