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From the NY Post

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He sang for his supper and the feds were amazed

D’Arco committed his first crime at the age of 12, when he robbed a furniture factory across the street from his family’s home on Kent Avenue, a deed that earned a beating from his father. But he was soon working for a local candy store operator whose sideline was gambling and peddling stolen goods.

Among those who tutored him was an old-school mobster named Vincenzo “Jimmy Alto” Altomari, who ran high-stakes crap games and whose headquarters was a cafe on Mott Street. “Be low key. Don’t stand out,” were among the lessons Altomari taught him, D’Arco later said.

He took the lesson to heart. Unlike flashy Mafia contemporaries such as Gotti, who sauntered through the Little Italy streets with an entourage, D’Arco lived modestly and conservatively. His residence was a government-subsidized apartment on Spring Street. There were no comares — girlfriends — on the side. Until his death, he remained loyal to his wife, Dolores Pellegrino, who had swept him off his budding young gangster feet when they’d met at a Brooklyn nightclub on Flatbush Avenue in 1953.

His only indulgence was a little restaurant on Cleveland Place called La Donna Rosa. Billed as Ristorante Siciliana, it featured recipes that D’Arco, an amateur cook, had learned from his grandparents, such as disco volante alla cognac con funghi — ravioli stuffed with wild rabbit mousse and wild mushrooms.

Patrons included Robert De Niro, who studied the moves of the mobsters who dined there, and John F. Kennedy Jr., who sat alone, quietly enjoying lunch during breaks from his duties as an assistant district attorney at the nearby courthouse. The late mayor and gourmand Ed Koch was once turned away at the door by D’Arco. A roomful of gangsters were holding a confab there.

“I told him it was a private party,” D’Arco told us later.

After he changed sides and testified for the government, prosecutors who worked with him were steadily impressed with both his uncanny memory and his insistence on holding to what he knew.

In a string of appearances as a witness for the government, D’Arco delivered devastatingly detailed testimony that helped win convictions against leaders of all five crime families, including Amuso and the elusive Genovese boss, Vincent “Chin” Gigante.

Altogether, prosecutors credited him with helping to convict more than 50 mobsters.

“He was one of the toughest, most difficult witnesses I ever faced,” said Gerald Shargel, the veteran defense attorney who represented Amuso and others.

Aside from recalling meetings and murders, his testimony from the stand also sometimes lapsed into a kind of mob poetry. Asked how he became involved with the Mafia in one trial, he explained that “it was always around my neighborhood. It’s like you’re in the forest. The neighborhood is the forest and all the trees in it, well, a lot of the trees, were organized-crime men. It was a way of life.”

His shift from gangster to witness was just another phase in that life, he said.

“I’m still a mobster,” he told prosecutors. “But I’m an outlaw, that’s all. It’s not like they throw you out of the mob when you flip. You’re just considered an outlaw. That’s what I am.”

Still, sitting in a chain motel in middle America far from the Little Italy streets for a series of interviews for the book, Little Al D’Arco often waxed nostalgic about the world he had left behind. “I could be back to crime now, if I wanted it. Crime is crime. You don’t forget how to make a living.”

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