Beating the Mafia at their own game: After years of paying a ‘protection’ tax, Palermo businesses came together to fight back
On the windows of his Fabio Conticello’s Palermo restaurant, beside the notices of awards and which credit cards are accepted, is an orange circle around an X, bisected by black letters: “Addiopizzo.”
It is the logo of a grassroots anti-Mafia campaign causing a sensation here, igniting a once unimaginable crusade of community activism challenging the omnipotence of the crime cartels that have held some sovereignty over this island since before the founders of the Antica had learned to cook.
Addiopizzo, which means “goodbye pizzo,” represents a bold declaration, a solemn promise and a hope for the future.
Pizzo is an illicit tax imposed by the mob on businesses in a gangster’s territory and has been a constant money-maker for Cosa Nostra, the proper name of the Mafia born on the island of Sicily.
The word pizzo is Sicilian dialect for a bird’s beak. The image of a bird moving from flower to flower sipping nectar from each conjured its use for the protection racket, where shops are intimidated into paying a monthly fee to be left alone.
The name — and the extortion — have spread, throughout Italy and Europe and to North America. In Canada, businesses in Montreal, Toronto, York Region, Hamilton and St. Catharines face demands to pay pizzo to the local Mafia. (Adrian Humphreys for National Post)