The murderous D’Alessio brothers in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” are based on a real-life band of six brothers from South Philadelphia.
Newspapers crowned them the most feared family of gangsters in Philadelphia history. Leo, Pius, Willie, Lucian, Teofilo and Ignatius Lanzetta made headlines from palm-fringed Miami to star-studded Los Angeles. Each brother was known for something. Leo was the leader. Pius’ nickname was “The Brain.” Ignatius was the dapper dresser. Teo was the baby. Lucian was a hothead. Willie was the quiet one.
Reporters loved to point out that three of them were named after popes, but the similarities stopped there.
As the Lanzetta mythology swelled, national newspapers described them as suave, dark-complexioned, flashy dressers who sometimes made women swoon. They favored gabardine suits and blue-and-purple shirt-and-tie combinations. Catholic newspapers added that Pius often carried rosary beads in his pocket.