Gangster’s Paradise: ’40s Home With Ties to Al Capone for Sale in Chicago

Craig Donofrio

Only in Chicago: A cop-turned-gangster’s home from the bootleg era is on the market for $489,500.
Here’s the backstory: Sometime in the 1920s, Al Capone took notice of a cop’s exceptional driving skills—while chasing down one of Capone’s goons. So he offered him a job.
The cop took the gig, and 20-something years later, after gaining some serious street cred in the mob outfit—and a nice nest egg along the way—that ex-cop built his dream home in the Windy City. And now that very place is on the market, with many of its original gangster flourishes intact.
Capone’s recruit was George “Babe” Tuffanelli. He may not be a famous criminal, but don’t let that fool you: Tuffanelli wielded some serious power working for Capone. He ran bootlegging outfits for the crime king and ruled criminal activity in the nearby city of Blue Island, whose mayor basically turned a blind eye to Tuffanelli, according to DNAInfo.com.
“He was one of Capone’s big guys, one of his top guys that ran the whole south suburban area [Blue Island] down there,” listing agent Michael Tootelian says.
His success paid off, at least when it came to his digs. Perhaps the coolest thing about this 4,099-square-foot home, located near the Beverly Woods area, is how well it’s been preserved.
“All the functioning stuff—like the mechanicals, appliances—have been updated,”  Tootelian says. Other than that, the home is basically a 1947, made-to-order gangster’s paradise.
Subtlety is not the main takeaway from this place; excess is more like it. Check the home’s four fireplaces, made with materials such as marble, stone, and granite. The wood floors are original and gorgeous, having been protected by a layer of carpet. The bathrooms—especially the master—are gloriously vintage.
And then there’s the downstairs. “It’s huge,” Tootelian says. “You keep going into room after room after room. And it’s mostly all original.”
The large stone fireplace still has an emblazoned “T” for Tuffanelli. There’s more than enough room for pool or gambling tables and the huge wraparound wet bar with matching chairs in an incredible cow print (original, of course).
The only thing that’s no longer there is a secret tunnel, which lead to the next-door neighbor’s house. “I don’t know what he used it for, but it’s blocked off now,” Tootelian says. He says the neighbor was someone who worked with Tuffanelli.
The “T” is for Tuffanelli, of course.
One of the reasons the three-bedroom, three-bathroom house has been so well-preserved is because Tuffanelli wasn’t cheap when it came to building his fantasy abode. (What kind of self-respecting gangster would be?)
“He used the best materials he could get a hold of,” says Tootelian. For example, he notes, the home’s “huge closets that are totally cedar … still have that cedar wood smell to it.”
Tootelian says the house has changed hands only once, when the current owners’ parents (now deceased) bought the property from Tuffanelli in the 1960s. Their children inherited the home and are now selling it.

And hey, if you make friends with the neighbors, maybe you can reopen that tunnel—you never know when you need to go on the lam. Or just tunnel over to watch Netflix with your neighbors.

The House Of Hope: Harry Caray's Restaurant

By Chicago History, Wednesday at 5:26 pm

HOLY COW! The famous words of the late great baseball announcer Harry Caray.  Recently the team at Chicago History sat down with the man who started it all with creating one of the best Chicago steak houses around, Harry Caray's Restaurant.
Grant DePorter is his name and he is the CEO of the Harry Caray Restaurant Group.  He was nice enough to take us on a special tour of the first restaurant located 33 W. Kinzie Street, Chicago, Il.  This particular restaurant was opened October 23, 1987.  We began the morning walking into the iconic and historical restaurant just admiring all of the unique and amazing photos taken at the famous statue of Harry's head.  Once greeted by staff we were quickly introduced to the man himself Grant DePorter.
The first leg of the tour was going down into the basement which was lined with photos as well as newspaper articles about none other than the famous 1920s Chicago mob member Frank Nitti.  The importance of this man is that the building in which the restaurant stands was built in 1895 and has a built in hidden room which was a hideout for the mobster during the prohibition era.  Along with a window to look through into this room, the basement also holds a safe which Frank Nitti himself used during that time. It's definitely a must see attracation.
Going forward with the tour Mr. DePorter acted as a true Chicago historian telling amazing stories of the building in which we were touring through as well as the importance it held to the city.  As you walk through the main lobby you will notice a few glass cases which include different Chicago sports artifacts which Mr. DePorter has been able to collect over the years.  One interesting piece is the extremely famous and actually one of a kind "Bartman ball" that Mr. DePorter took the initiative to blow up in 2004.  As we proceeded upstairs to our suprise, we had our interview in Harry Carays office that is located on the top floor of the restaurant.  Mr. DePorter mentioned that Harry did not spend an extreme amount of time in the beautiful and luxurious room because he wanted to be downstairs at the bar with the fans; with CHICAGO!
Interesting facts and information came to the mind of Grant DePorter in a fashion that just seemed normal and completely comfortable for the CEO to tell us.  It really was truly amazing how much he has been able to enjoy of the city and of course the late great Harry Caray.  One of the most interesting points that was brought up was in 1997 when the Cubs were in a serious losing streak and at that time the restaurant decided to give Budweiser beer for the small price of 45-cents a beer.  The neat significance of this was that in 1945 Harry began broadcasting for the Cubs as well as it being their last season to be in the World Series.  From the start of the season until the Cubs won their first game that year the restaurant served approximately 50,000 45-cent Budweiser's.  From there we went onto talking about the different artifacts which he had received from Harry and his family, including Harry's own personal diaries which included the findings that he most likely went to around 1300 bars a year averaging 6 bars a night.  They have figured that Harry himself consumed around 73000 Budweiser's in his time in Chicago.
From there we went more into the history of the restaurant chain.  We were interested in who decided to open the different locations and to find out how many locations they had actually.  Mr. DePorter is the CEO and has a board of many different investors and people who back up the projects.  We found out they have a total of 7 locations including its newest location in Water Tower Place "The Seventh Inning Stretch", which includes a very cool Chicago sports museum that is open for the public to view.  With sitting down with the man who started it all we learned how the restaurant group became a true Chicago Legend.  Not only being based on Harry Caray himself, but also holding so many stories and so much historical information that one can only find by dining in the restaurant themselves.
Don' forget to take your picture next to the famous Harry Caray bust that sits in the lobby of the restaurant on Kinzie.  One last neat bit of information to close with was a story Mr. DePorter told us that was quiet unusual.  In 2009 when the Ricketts family purchased the Chicago Cubs, the statue began making a strange jingle noise which had never been heard before in the past.  No one could explain the sound or how it was coming from a solid piece of metal, but it didn't stop for 24 hours and then it was suddenly quiet again.  Was it Harry trying to tell everyone he was happy or something different, you decide.
Harry Caray's restaurant is not only known for their delectable steaks but also their phenomenal Chicken Vesuvio. Since we were there, we nailed down a couple plays or two, or three. Heck, we lost count. Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune named it "The Best Chicken Vesuvio In The City." We can vouch for Phil, he's absolutely spot on.
It's hard not to go into a lengthy book long of a story on why we believe Harry Caray's to be Chicago History at it's finest. If you've never been there, this story hopefully will get you en route. Harry's was named best sports restaurant in the United States.
While their may not be ivy on the walls, Harry's definitely has a friendly confines feel to it. It's a Downtown joint where once you walk in you may never want to leave. The place just has an overwhelming feeling of hope locked inside it's historic walls. If you can't be at Wrigley Field, there's no better place to sit amongst your fellow Chicagoans and root, root, root the Cubbies.
The actual baseball Hall Of Fame is in Cooperstown, New York. However, Harry Caray's on Kinzie definitely feels like you have walked in to baseball Heaven.
Thank you again Mr. DePorter & Thank you for delivering us Chicago History. Harry is looking down with a big smile on his face and Budweiser in hand, due to you and Chicago as a whole keeping his legacy stronger than ever.
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Waitkus Family to hold open house at local landmark

by Kyle Garmes

A Morgan Park home with loose ties to infamous gangster Al Capone will host an open house on Aug. 8, as family members continue to market the home they lived in for about five decades.
The house, located at 11860 S. Bell Ave., has been home to the Waitkus Family since 1962, but since both of their parents have died, Susan, John and Teresa Waitkus are now selling it.
The open house will run from 10 a.m to 3 p.m., the family said, and will offer visitors a chance to tour a sprawling, 4,100-square-foot ranch home that once had a tunnel to the home next door.
The home is also known for the three deer statues in the front yard, which stand just outside an outdoor patio where family members still gather today.
“It was the best house I think a child could grow up in,” Teresa Waitkus said. “Because there’s so many things to do in this house because of the size of the rooms. And with the space that you have, everyone can still have their privacy but still be a family at the same time.”
The original owner, George “Babe” Tuffanelli, an alleged associate of Capone, built the home in 1947, the family said, and required precise attention to detail from all workers who constructed the home. Marble window sills line two large family rooms on the main floor, and there are four fireplaces, including one in the basement that has a “T” for Tuffanelli posted above it.
The Waitkus children’s father, Dr. John Waitkus, became friends with Tuffanelli when Tuffanelli’s granddaughter became ill and was treated by Dr. Waitkus, a surgeon who worked for Holy Cross and Loyola hospitals.
The Waitkus Family became friends with Tuffanelli, the Waitkus children said, because the Tuffanellis moved next door for a brief time after the Waitkuses moved in. The Tuffanellis later moved to Las Vegas for business reasons, the Waitkus Family said, but returned to the area to visit. At times, the family said, Babe Tuffanelli wanted to do business with Dr. Waitkus, but he turned down offers. The children said their father didn’t share what occurred in those conversations with them.
“What you don’t know doesn’t hurt you,” said Teresa Waitkus, who now lives in Las Vegas.
The basement features a 13-seat bar and a pool table, as well as a bedroom. In total, the home has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms.
The two large family rooms, which are separated by sliding doors, had starkly different themes when the Waitkus children were growing up, they said. One had a more casual feel, where children could play and eat. The other, which now features a baby grand piano, was more formal and used during parties. Often, said John Waitkus, he could go several months without stepping foot in that room.
The family hosted “party after party after party,” John Waitkus said, and that included for children.
“My parents had them, and we had them,” John Waitkus said. “Those were fun.”
A wall in the basement still features an outline to a tunnel that leads to the house next door, the family said, a sign of the mob activity that perhaps occurred there before they moved in. The main floor also several entries in and out of rooms, leaving Teresa Waitkus to wonder if Tuffanelli wanted to make sure he was never cornered in a room.
While the home is on 119th Street, a high-traffic thoroughfare, it faces east, and John Waitkus stressed that the new owners won’t be bombarded by noise.
“You will not hear a car out there on 119th Street in this house,” John Waitkus said. “I don’t care if you’re in the kitchen—you won’t.”
The house was appraised at $2.1 million, John Waitkus said, but the family is selling it for about $500,000.
John Waitkus has lived in the home while trying to sell it, and he recently sold his home in Indiana and plans to move to New York. He will still be back in the area, though, as he often visits Iroquois County for work.
The family is moving on from its infamous home, they said, but their ties with the Tuffanellis remain strong.

“We’re still friends with them today,” Teresa Waitkus said. 

How's your wife and kids? Pal of mobsters convicted of extortion

Written By Jon Seidel 

A looming, broad-shouldered Michael “Mickey” Davis sat across from R.J. Serpico in the office of a Melrose Park used car dealership in January 2013.
Months earlier, Davis had helped Serpico’s dreams come true. He loaned the suburban car salesman and his father $300,000, so they could open the dealership in the town where Serpico’s uncle is the mayor, according to court testimony. But the dream soon turned into a nightmare. Serpico testified he routinely saw Davis driving by the dealership with a reputed mobster. And as the unpaid bills began to pile up in January 2013, Serpico said Davis dropped a sheet of gambling debts down on Serpico’s desk and warned, “this wasn’t the f—ing agreement.” Serpcio’s father had lost a lot of money gambling, according to court testimony.
Serpico said Davis then leaned back and asked, “how my wife and my kids were, and if I still lived in Park Ridge.”
Serpico took it as a threat. A jury agreed Monday morning, convicting the 58-year-old Davis of extortion and attempted extortion. Dressed in a gray suit and tie, Davis glanced at his lawyers as the verdict was read and leaned back in his chair as the jury was polled. He is to be sentenced Oct. 6.
One of Davis’ lawyers, Christopher Grohman, even admitted Davis “looks like a mobster” as the trial got underway — but he said that didn’t mean he was guilty. It simply suggested Davis had no need to “hire a bunch of goombahs” to deliver a beating.
“He could do it himself,” Grohman said earlier this month.
Serpico testified that Davis asked him about the ages of his children and whether his “wife still owned a beauty salon in Schaumburg.” The encounter seemingly terrified Serpico, who said he apologized to Davis and later kept his distance.
“Because I’m afraid of him, sir,” Serpico explained to a federal prosecutor during Davis’ trial.
Prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a “break-both-legs beating” for Serpico in 2013 to collect on his $300,000 loan to Serpico and his father. They said he took control of Serpico’s dealership and even opened new bank accounts for the business. Eventually, prosecutors said, Davis paid a mob associate for Serpico’s “thorough” beating. The assault, though, never happened, thanks to the feds.
Serpico testified that his uncle is Ronald Serpico, the mayor of Melrose Park.
Prosecutors said Davis sought help collecting on his debt and offered to pay $10,000 for the beating with $5,000 up front. The job allegedly went to Paul Carparelli — an Itasaca man who pleaded guilty last month to three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion.
One of Carparelli’s associates, George Brown, turned out to be a government informant. And prosecutors wrote that Brown recorded conversations with Carparelli and others. But in one key recording, Davis’ lawyers claimed Carparelli only said he learned the person who ordered the beating was “Mickey.”
“This statement is uncorroborated triple hearsay,” they wrote.
Before leaving the courthouse Monday, Davis lawyer Thomas Anthony Durkin said he “truly thought” Davis had beaten the charges. And while Davis’ trial was filled with references to reputed mobsters, Durkin said Davis’ legal team was “straight” with the jury.
For example, Serpico said he noticed that Davis was driving by the dealership “pretty often” with reputed mobster Pete DiFronzo, the brother of alleged mob boss John DiFronzo.
“I just thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’” Serpico said.
But Durkin said Monday that Davis’ lawyers proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that Davis’ association with Pete DiFronzo was a business relationship.
“I don’t understand how they could see this as proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” Durkin said of the jurors.
Grohman earlier told the jury that Davis was an active investor in the father-son car dealership. And though prosecutors accused Davis of ordering a beating for Serpico, Grohman said it was Serpico’s father who lost the money gambling.
Serpico said his used-car dealership lasted from June 2012 to May 2013. Things were “pretty good” in the early months, he said. Davis’ loan agreement entitled him to $300 for every car sold plus some of the profits from the dealership, Serpico said.
Eventually, Serpico said things “went bad” at the dealership. He said he “owed everybody money,” and he realized his father had been gambling it away. After his encounter with Davis, Serpico said he did everything he could to raise cash to pay off the debt to Davis.
Prosecutors said they interrupted the extortion plot before things turned violent.

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Alleged members of the Chicago mob

John Difronzo  and Mickey Davis

John DiFronzo

Mickey Davis

Pete DiFronzo

Solly Delaurentis