Philip Testa

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Philip Testa
1956 Philadelphia Police Department mugshot of Philip Testa
BornPhilip Charles Testa
(1924-04-21)April 21, 1924
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 15, 1981(1981-03-15) (aged 56)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Cause of deathBombing
Other names"The Chicken Man", "The Julius Caesar of the Philadelphia Mob", "Philly"
OccupationPoultry business
ChildrenSalvatore Testa, Maria
Motiveinner family coup started by capo Frank (Chickie) Narducci Sr.
Conviction(s)dropped from docket after he was murdered
Criminal chargeRICO

Philip Charles Testa (April 21, 1924 – March 15, 1981), also known as "The Chicken Man" or "The Julius Caesar of the Philadelphia Mob" or "Philly", was a Sicilian-American Mafia figure known for his brief leadership of the Scarfo crime family. Testa became boss after popular former boss Angelo Bruno was murdered by his own consiglieri, Antonio Caponigro, who, in turn, was ordered killed by The Commission for acting without permission. About a year after Bruno's death, Testa was killed by the blast of a nail bomb allegedly ordered by his underboss, Pete Casella. According to the Philadelphia press, that event marked the beginning of the four-year Philadelphia Mafia War that led to 30 mobsters being killed.[1]

Testa's nickname came from his involvement in a poultry business.

Early life and family life[edit]

Testa was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and lived in South Philadelphia with his family in his teenage years. In South Philadelphia he met and befriended future mob boss Angelo Bruno. He later married an attractive woman[citation needed] named Alfia Arcidiacono (records show her family owned a farm in Salem County, New Jersey). In early police dossiers on Testa, he was identified by law enforcement as not having a legitimate source of income and was solely dependent from winnings as a "common gambler". He saw himself as a Roman general and statesman like Julius Caesar in the world of organized crime. He occasionally worked in the construction business in arranging contractors for repairs and renovations in South Philadelphia.

He was a dour-looking man with a pockmarked face who stood at 5 foot 8 inches, weighed 183 pounds, had brown hair and brown eyes, and was well built. He reportedly had dark emotionless eyes, a bulbous nose and scowl that made press photographers back away from him. His pockmarked face is thought to be one of the reasons behind his nickname, as the pockmarks are believed to have been caused by a horrible case of chicken pox with the scars never fully healing. Testa sported a thick mustache despite Mafia code stating that members could not sport mustaches. He wore blue-collar clothing, giving off the appearance of a "badly dressed plumber than an old world don", as one associate described him. He fathered a daughter, Maria.

At the age of 32, Testa became a father to his only son, Salvatore Testa, born in 1956 in Bella Vista. He was a staunch Roman Catholic and raised his son in the same fashion. He remained loyal to his wife and did not have a mistress, unlike many other mobsters and did not drink heavily.

His son, Salvatore, was described by associates and the press as better looking than his father. Crime reporter George Anastasia describes his son Salvatore as, "a ruggedly handsome 210-pound man who stood 6 feet tall with hazel eyes and real long lashes and dimpled cheeks. He wore his wavy hair out over his ears in typical 1970s fashion and was known to wear track suits and double breasted suits."

Members Testa inducted into family[edit]

On June 8, 1980, Phil Testa held a La Cosa Nostra initiation ceremony at the South Philadelphia home of mob captain John Cappello. At the ceremony, Testa inducted Scarfo's nephew Philip (Crazy Phil) Leonetti, Lawrence (Yogi) Merlino, Salvatore (Chuckie) Merlino, Robert (Bobby) Lumio, Anthony (Blonde Babe) Pungitore Sr., Salvatore (Wayne) Grande, Anthony (Tony) Testa,Jr., Frank (Little Frankie) Narducci Jr.,and his son, Salvatore.[2]

Criminal headquarters[edit]

Testa had an office in the back of what was the Bank Street Restaurant until he changed the name in 1979 or 1980 to 'Virgilio's' in Old City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania managed by his daughter Maria of which Salvatore was a part owner of the lease. Virgil (The Blade) Mariutti, who was a close friend of Salvatore Testa’s, managed Philip Testa’s restaurant during part of the time that Testa owned it. Testa named the restaurant after Mariutti. Frank Monte, a fellow capo in the Scarfo family worked as a bartender at the restaurant. It was out of this restaurant that he operated his legitimate and illegitimate business enterprises. Testa chose to have Nicky Scarfo Sr. and his second wife Domencia as his son's godparents shortly after he was born at St. Paul's Catholic Church, the same church he would later have his funeral and later where Salvatore himself would be interred. He schooled his son in the 'old ways of the mob' with traditions of the Sicilian Mafia embraced in Sicily that he taught his son Salvatore to embrace.

Relationship with Salvie[edit]

His son Salvatore had a close relationship with his father and became involved with him in the rackets of drug trafficking, loansharking and extortion.

Salvie was all for 'this thing'. Knew it inside out. Knew it better than guys who were sixty years old and who'd been in it for forty years. Because of his father. He'd been a good teacher. Salvie had nerve and he didn't care who he killed. Sometimes we used to go [on a contract] and we'd come back and tell him, "Well, the kids were in the car, the family's in the car.' "I don't care who's in the car', he'd say. 'Everybody goes.' That's the kind of guy he was. One Thanksgiving Day he wanted us to go into Sonny [Mario] Riccobene's house where Robert Riccobene was havin' dinner with his family. 'Shoot everybody in the house'. But he and Charlie [Iannece] and Faffy [Francis Ianarella] made up some story that he didn't show up. Just to appease Salvie. 'Cause we didn't go for killing kids. It was something we drew a line with, but he (Testa) was just so full of venom that he didn't care. He was a guy made for 'this thing.' He loved it. He lived it. And he was very bitter about what happened to his father (Philip), about the way his father got killed, blown up with nails in him.

After he (Salvie) murdered Frank (Chickie) Narducci Sr., the mobster that orchestrated his father's death and headed the coup of the Scarfo crime family, Nicholas Caramandi said, "Salvie used to say to me, 'I wish that motherfucker was alive so I could kill him again.' This is how much he hated this man. He had no mercy on anybody. Business was business, and killing to him was business." Philadelphia Inquirer reporter George Anastasia wrote, "Salvatore Testa loved it all, the stalkings, the murders, even the Enrico Riccobene suicide. He was the South Philadelphia equivalent of a Main Line blue blood. He was born to be a wiseguy." Mobster-turned-informant Nicholas Caramandi spoke about Salvatore's upbringing by his father and his son Salvatore's brief courtship of Maria Merlino, the daughter of Salvatore Merlino, Nicky Scarfo's underboss and Testa's godfather,

He (Salvatore) gets into a beef with Maria. She's telling him, "My father (Merlino) bought me all this jewelry", stuff like that... While they were waiting to get married, Maria's having the fucking house redone with French toilets and Jacuzzis. And even though it was sort an old fashioned, that's the way Salvie wanted to live. He wanted to live in his father's footsteps. He didn't like all this fancy stuff.

When Philip was murdered Salvatore was very angered, and personally hunted down to seek revenge on his father's murderers. Exactly one year after his father's bombing, Rocco Marinucci, the man who waited outside their household and detonated the bomb, was found in a parking lot in South Philadelphia, with cherry bombs from Salvatore stuffed down his throat and shot dead. He also wanted to personally shoot Frank Narducci Sr. for his involvement and waited so that he could see Narducci's expression on his face before pulling the trigger. Philip's wife of over twenty-five years Alfia died of natural causes in 1980. In March of the same year longtime family boss Angelo Bruno was murdered, and Testa's father became boss of the family. He was known to wear, on occasion, ten-gallon cowboy hats and cowboy boots, a style which his son Salvatore later adopted. His son and apparent successor to his criminal empire was Salvatore Testa was twenty-five years old when Philip was murdered in a bomb blast at his family's home located in South Philadelphia. When Philip died he left his son an estate worth $800,000 that included a run-down bar in Atlantic City on a site where Donald Trump decided to build the Trump Plaza. Trump paid Testa $1.1 million for the bar, and then demolished.

Death by bombing[edit]

Testa's home at 2117 Porter St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he was assassinated on March 15, 1981

One month before Testa was murdered, he, Frank Narducci Sr., Harold and Mario Riccobene, Pasquale Spirito, Joseph Ciancaglini, and several associates were indicted in a federal racketeering case that centered on gambling and loansharking operations run by the mob. The case was based on an investigation called Operation Gangplank and was one of the first built on the RICO Act by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia. On March 15, 1981, Testa returned to his home in South Philadelphia that was across the street from the scenic Stephen Girard Park. As he was opening the door to his twin home at 2117 Porter Street, a nail bomb exploded under his front porch.[3] The house was ravaged and witnesses claimed that pieces of Testa's body were scattered blocks away. He was rushed to St. Agnes Medical Centre in Point Breeze, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but died of internal bleeding.

In popular culture[edit]

Testa's violent death is referenced in the opening of musician Bruce Springsteen's song Atlantic City from his 1982 "Nebraska" album; "Well they blew up the Chicken Man in Philly last night/And they blew up his house too."


  1. ^ "La Cosa Nostra".
  2. ^ Anastasia, George (1991). Blood & Honor. New York: William Morrow and Company Inc. p. 95. ISBN 0-688-09260-8.
  3. ^ Capuzzo, Michael "The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases" p. 189. New York: Gotham Books. 2010

Further reading[edit]

  • Anastasia, George (2004). Blood and Honor: Inside the Scarfo Mob - The Mafia's Most Violent Family. ISBN 0940159864.

External links[edit]

American Mafia
Preceded by
Angelo Bruno
Philadelphia crime family

Succeeded by
Nicodemo Scarfo