Sylvester "Sally Daz" Zottola, 71, was shot and killed Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018, while waiting at a McDonald's drive-thru lane in the Bronx. Zottola, a reputed associate of the Bonanno Crime Family and once a trusted friend of former Bonanno boss Vincent J. "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano, apparently had been targeted by rivals for the past year.
Zottola, alone in his maroon Acura SUV, visited the McDonald's restaurant drive-thru, 1625 Webster Avenue near Belmont Street in the Claremont section of the Bronx, at about 4:45 p.m. and placed an order for a medium coffee. He was boxed in, a car in front of him and a car behind him, when a gunman in a dark hoodie stepped up to his vehicle and fired at him six times with a 9mm handgun.
One slug struck Zottola in the head, three entered his chest, one hit him in the shoulder. Zottola was unarmed at the time.
The gunman approached through a hole in a fence along Clay Avenue behind the McDonald's property and walked down an embankment to the drive-thru lane. After the shooting, he went back up the embankment, through the fence and into a waiting gray sedan. The car sped away southward on Clay Avenue.
Zottola was pronounced dead at the scene, concluding a series of attempts on his life that date back at least to September 2017, when he was clubbed over the head near his brick home, 2005 Hobart Avenue at the corner of Wilkinson Avenue, Pelham Bay, Bronx.
Two months after that attack, a gunman attempted without success to force him into a car at Meagher Avenue and the Throgs Neck Expressway, a short distance from the massive Zottola family summer compound at Locust Point. In December, Zottola arrived at his home to find three "burglars" inside. One of the intruders stabbed him in the neck and back, and Zottola was taken to Jacobi Medical Center in critical condition.
In June, he was confronted again outside of his Pelham Bay home. At that time, Zottola drew a handgun and fired to scare off his assailant. The firearm was unlicensed. He was subsequently charged with criminal possession of a firearm, and was scheduled to appear in court on that charge Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. The gun charge is reportedly the only arrest on record for Zottola.
On the morning of July 11, 2018, Zottola's son Salvatore (also identified by the nickname "Sally Daz") was shot repeatedly in front of the family summer compound, Tierney Place and Longstreet Avenue. The shooting was captured by video surveillance cameras. Salvatore survived multiple gunshot wounds. He was believed to know the identity of his attacker, but he refused to cooperate with police. No arrests were made in connection with that shooting.
Police are investigating whether Zottola made regular visits to the Webster Avenue McDonald's. While the killing looks to be an underworld "hit," authorities are looking outside of traditional Mafia circles for Zottola's assassin. Matt Heron, a former head of the FBI's organized crime unit, told NBC News in New York City that the murder of Zottola appears to be related to a turf war between Italian organized crime and Albanian gangsters. Though law enforcement suggests Zottola was involved years ago in gambling and loan sharking rackets, the level of his recent involvement in underworld activities is uncertain.
Through his company, D.A.Z. Amusements, Sylvester Zottola in the 1990s and early 2000s provided and serviced coin-operated machines, including jukeboxes, vending machines and lucrative "Joker Poker" gambling devices, for restaurants, bars and private clubs. (The business's address was within the family compound at Locust Point.) According to published reports, he partnered in that venture with his son Salvatore and with Vincent Basciano.
According to rumors, Basciano once sent out some of his men to deal with a rival who was encroaching on Zottola's poker-machine territory.
Owner of the "Hello Gorgeous" beauty salon in the Bronx, Basciano briefly reigned as boss of the Bonanno Crime Family following the 2004 murder and racketeering conviction of then-boss Joseph Massino and Basciano's own similar convictions in 2006, 2007 and 2011. Authorities reported that Zottola provided accommodation at his Locust Point compound for a Basciano girlfriend in 1999.
Most sources describe Zottola as a reputed associate of the Bonanno Crime Family. The New York Daily News, while noting Zottola's connection to Bonanno leader Basciano, labeled Zottola an associate of the Lucchese Crime Family but provided no explanation for the apparent conflicting information. (There is reason to believe that Zottola was associated with the Lucchese clan before developing a business relationship with Basciano.)
Sylvester Zottola was born April 17, 1947. Friends told the press that he was a doting grandfather to his three grandchildren. Zottola neighbors in Pelham Bay recall enormous Fourth of July block parties he threw. Hobart Avenue would be closed off between St. Theresa Avenue and Wilkinson Avenue for the events. The Bronx Times reported that Zottola built rows of attached homes on Hobart and Gillespie Avenues in the 1990s.
New York City Birth Index, Ancestry.com.