Like so many, I have long been drawn to gangster films – and the director Martin Scorsese is one of my great inspirations. Chicago is the home of the mobster and I was determined to capture the mood of the Al Capone and Prohibition era in a single frame. To my mind this demanded a location canvas that could substantiate the narrative. I homed in on the old Italian Neighborhood in Chicago where thousands of Italians used to live in the 1920s and 1930s. Around 24th street and Oakley, it was a tight knit community with roots in Tuscan towns such as Lucca.
On an intersection on 24th Street there is a well known Italian restaurant – Bruna’s, that was around at the time of Al Capone. Bruna – an Italian lady – owned the joint for many years and allegedly had fatally knifed a couple of customers during her tenure. Her portrait still holds court in the dining area.
I visited on the premise of being hungry and I knew immediately there was potential. The current owner – Luciano from Siena – was willing to cooperate so long as some cash changed hands and he could be an extra in the image. Both requests seemed reasonable, besides historical precedent suggests that this was no place to ar- gue with the patrons.
The casting couch was entertaining as it was difficult to distinguish between those who were acting and those who were the real deal. I could only vouch for two of them – Luciano, on the far left of the photograph and Josie Canseco, who played her role brilliantly as she always does. The formation worked to the side of the bar – what a bunch.
After the shoot was wrapped, one of the mobsters – going by the name of Donny Greco – brought out his music box and we all sang Frank Sinatra and drank Italian white for an hour. My kinda town, Chicago is.