Smoke & Fire: Bacci Pizza Arson Intrigue

The Trib is reporting that Robert Didiana, the owner of numerous Bacci Pizzeria establishments throughout the state (including six in Chicago), was arrested on suspicion of arson at his former Western Ave location.

Shady restaurauteurs, no news there. But this actually winds up reading like a Mickey Spillane-goes-culinary. We’ve bolded our particularly favorite elements of the story:

[Didiana is] under arrest for allegedly hiring a street gang to burn down the building for insurance money… The fire, which caused heavy damage to the building on Christmas Eve 2000, began while a family who rented an apartment on an upper floor celebrated the holidays there. The family escaped without harm when the arsonists sent a junior gang member into the building after the fire was started to evacuate the couple, their child and an elderly relative, according to the source.

See? Gangs can be compassionate too! Christmas eve, and a family saved. Warms the heart, really.

Eventually, investigators began to piece together a relationship between the West Side-based gang and Didiana, who had grown up in the Little Italy area on the Near West Side, the source said. As a youth, Didiana attended school with boys who later joined the gang, the source said.

Sometime in the 1990s, a childhood acquaintance of Didiana introduced him to the ranking gang member, who then rented an apartment in the Western Avenue building from Didiana, the source said. The gang member reportedly told authorities that Didiana would keep him informed about police activity in the area based on conversations he had with police officers who frequented his pizzeria around the corner on Taylor Street, the source said.

Over time, Didiana decided he wanted to burn down the building because it needed costly rehab work, the source said. Around Christmas 2000, Didiana finally told the ranking gang member he wanted to go ahead with the arson, and the gang members set the fire in the basement Dec. 24, using a bottle of high-alcohol liquor they bought nearby, the source said.

Later, an informant wore a wire for ATF during a conversation with Didiana in which the pizzeria owner allegedly incriminated himself, according to Cook County prosecutors. During the secretly recorded meeting, which took place outside the Bacci on Taylor Street, Didiana made a final cash payment of $1,000 for the arson job, the source said.

The ranking gang member, now in a federal prison after drug dealing and weapons convictions, has not been charged in the arson case, prosecutors said. Another suspected accomplice in the case was being held on unrelated charges in Wisconsin.

Didiana is expected in court Friday, and may face formal indictment in the case sometime next week.

This is so much better than HBO.

Bacci Pizzeria owner accused of hiring gang to burn building for insurance money [Tribune, via]
Bacci Pizzeria [MenuPages]
Bacci Pizzeria [Official Site]

Smoke & Fire: Bacci Pizza Arson Intrigue