When Chili first came to Miami Beach twelve years ago they were having one of their off-and-on cold winters: thirty-four degreed the day he met Tommy Carlo for lunch at Vesuvio’s on South Collins and had his leather jacket ripped off. One his wife had given him for Christmas a year ago, before they moved down here.
Chili and Tommy were both from bay Ridge, Brooklyn, old buddies now in business together. Tommy Carlo was connected to a Brooklyn crew through his uncle, a guy named Momo, Tommy keeping his books and picking up betting slips till Momo sent him to Miami, with a hundred thousand to put on the street as loan money. Chili was connected through some people on his mother’s side, the Manzara brothers. He worked usually for Manzara Moving & Storage in Bensonhurst, finding high-volume customers for items such as cigarettes, TVs, VCRs, stepladders, dressed, frozen orange juice… But he could never be a made guy himself because of tainted blood, some Sunset Park Puerto Rican on his father’s die, even though he was raised Italian. Chili didn’t care to made anyway, get into all that bullshit having to do with respect. It was bad enough having to treat these guys like they were your heroes, smile when they made some stupid remark they thought was funny. Thought it was pretty nice, go in a restaurant on 86th or Cropsey Avenue the way they knew his name, still a young guy then, and would bust their ass to wait on him. His wife Debbie ate it up, until they were married a few years and she got pregnant. Then it was a different story. Debbie said with a child coming into their lives he had to get a regular job, quit associating with “those people” and bitched at him till he said okay, all right, Jesus, and lined up the deal with Tommy Carol in Miami. He told Debbie he’d be selling restaurant supplies to the big hotels like the Fontainebleau and she believed him – till they were down here less than a year and he had his jacket ripped off.