Distinguished Chicago mafia don John (Johnny No Nose) DiFronzo died of natural causes over the weekend ending a more than two decade reign and bringing the curtain down on a storied career in the Midwest underworld. The beloved 89-year old Outfit boss went into retirement due to health concerns in recent years, but kept his Godfather title. Per Windy City mob tradition, DiFronzo used a series of street bosses throughout his tenure, insulating himself from the lower regions of his crime family and only sending orders via a select few highly-trusted middlemen.

Referred to as “Johnny Bananas” by many close to him — “No Nose” was more media creation than street handle –, DiFronzo had been suffering from dementia and fighting a bout with Alzheimer’s Disease. Rising through the ranks of the Outfit as a professional thief, he acquired the “No Nose” moniker in 1949 after cutting off the front of his nose while breaking through the glass window of a Michigan Avenue department store he was burglarizing as he fled from police. Surgery corrected the damage in subsequent years.

Quick on his feet, savvy on the street and known for having a head for legitimate business, DiFronzo was rich and powerful but lived a humble, understated life in the boss’ chair, shunning the extravagance and showiness of some contemporaries in favor of keeping a low profile. He did prison time in the 1950s for burglary and again in the 1990s, a short stay on a 1993 federal racketeering conviction that was overturned 14 months later.

In the 1970s and 1980s, DiFronzo ran an Elmwood Park crew with a reputation for earning big money. According to Chicago Crime Commission files, DiFronzo maintained a prodigious business portfolio, including ownership in car dealerships, construction companies, trucking and sanitation firms, recycling plants and large portions of real estate. DiFronzo took his first arrest as a teenager in 1946 for petty larceny during his days as a member of the “3 Minute Gang” and a gopher for his gangland mentor, John (Jackie the Lackey) Cerone, the future syndicate underboss.

Legendary Outfit Godfather Tony (The Big Tuna) Accardo allegedly blessed DiFronzo’s ascension to the Windy City mob throne in his final weeks. Accardo died of heart failure in May 1992.

“Accardo loved Johnny DiFronzo,” one Chicago mafia insider said. “He would always ask about him. He knew Johnny was the future of the Outfit and made sure he was on his way to becoming boss before he left this earth. Everybody understood that was Accardo’s wish.”

Some of the top dogs in Illinois law enforcement tasked with targeting him in mob probes displayed a grudging respect for DiFronzo as well.

“Johnny had a routine, he wasn’t hard to find, but he was very smart about how he did Outfit business,” recalled retired FBI agent Jim Wagner of tracking DiFronzo’s movements. “When I was on the job, most mornings you’d find him having breakfast at the same place and then reading the paper behind the desk at his office at one of his automobile dealerships. He was always pleasant with us. He was hard to get on a wire though. He knew to avoid phones and talking shop in places where we’d know to try to bug. His inner circle was tight knit and knew how to have other people do his bidding and taking all the risk. The guy was a world-class earner too. He made a lot of money for a lot of people, especially himself.”

Testimony at the historic 2007 Operation Family Secrets trial implicated DiFronzo in planning and taking part in the 1986 double homicide of the Outfit’s explosive Las Vegas crew leader Tony (The Ant) Spilotro and his baby brother Michael, however he was never charged in the landmark case. Gene’s Deli in Elmwood Park, Agostino’s on Harlem Avenue, The Loon Café in River Grove and the Rosebud chain of Italian eateries were his top hangout spots.

Sources peg DiFronzo the man who sanctioned the two most recent confirmed Outfit hits: the 2001 murder of loan shark and enforcer Anthony (Tony the Hatchet) Chiaramonti and the 2006 disappearance of underboss Anthony (Little Tony) Zizzo. Chiaramonti was gunned down on Thanksgiving inside a fast food fried chicken place. Zizzo vanished on his way to a mob sit down on Rush Street, Chicago’s main nightlife district.

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