Unlike in other neighboring households, Giuseppe took care of his numbers business by himself. In other homes, wives took chances alongside their husbands to help them manage their affairs. They recruited their children to deliver slips of betted numbers and cash wrapped inside newsprint pages to bookies on the street corner so casually that an outsider would be hard-pressed to discern anything illegal going on, let alone in broad daylight!
In the year of their third daughter Sofia’s birth, the City of New York ordered Giuseppe to vacate his café because it was in the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway path. All occupants on that parcel of land, including the neighborhood Catholic church, had to relocate. On a brighter note, the city provided the families, churches, priests, and nuns with enough funds to help them find other places to live. The church purchased a parcel of land a few blocks away on Havemeyer Street and built a new church building. The Ambrezia family located another apartment and storefront suitable for a cafe on Metropolitan Avenue around the corner from where they had lived. Inexplicably, though, the relocated nuns from the same church ended up right next to the café, bringing on complaints from them about the activities of the men who frequented the café to “... play pool, have one or two espressos, and whatever else they do in there.”
The church forced a shutdown of the cafe. Gabriella and Giuseppe, rightfully upset, pleaded with church representatives to help them, explaining they had barely enough money to feed the family, which now included the new infant. Heartlessly, church administration officials ignored their pleas and abandoned the Ambrezias, leaving the family less to eat, sometimes only a few potatoes and a piece of hard bread for dinner.
When Giuseppe finally located another place suitable for his café, their lives soon settled back to normal, perhaps in part because of his big-hearted personality. Standing short of stature at five-foot-six and obesely heavy, he was street smart, despite not knowing how to read or write. Due to his educational deficiency, he devised an ingeniously simple system for keeping his accounts straight without too many written records. It consisted of made-up, fake names based on the various physical appearances of his customers, like “Shorty with Fat Nose,” “Curly Head,” “Limpo,” and “Three Fingers,” among others. If the police ever captured one of his lists, they might first check race cards at the local horse tracks only to find zero equine entries with such names and have to let go for lack of evidence, once again, one of their prime suspects!
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