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Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
“A Hard-hearted She-wolf who Resembled Elizabeth Taylor on a Bad Day”

Sally Papia, known as  the “Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime” owned and operated Sally’s Steak House, a highly rated restaurant located in the Knickerbocker Hotel in the 1970’s. Her restaurant was a frequent meeting place for politicians and businessmen. Sally could usually be found at the hostess stand, impressively dressed and working her patrons. Years later, at the time of her death, she also managed the Savoy Room, a main floor upscale restaurant at the Shorecrest Hotel, which was owned by Joseph Balistrieri, son of Frank. Frank Balistrieri took power in 1961 as the “godfather”, leader of the Milwaukee mafia or La Cosa Nostra.
As described by Gary Magnesen in his book "Straw Men": “Sally was a raven-haired firecracker of a woman who resembled Elizabeth Tayler on a bad day. She was the girlfriend of a Chicago Outfit member “Big Frank” Buccieri in the ‘70s and had assembled a loyal crew of employees who were mobster wannabes”.
“As the boss of the Milwaukee Mafia, Frank Balistrieri resented Papia’s restaurant’s success and thought she was a threat to his power, as she brought Chicago "Outfit" guys to his town (Chicago was only 90 miles away), where they often dined at Sally’s place and never bothered to pay their respects to him. Balistrieri was once heard describing her as “an Outfit wannabe in a friggin’ skirt”. It was rumored that he once considered having her killed, but thought better of it.” Frank had to answer to the Chicago Mafioso and he and Sally had a very tenuous and uncomfortable relationship for many years. Later on, Frank was known to say that Sally was the only regular visitor while he was in prison and kept him informed of the Milwaukee Mob business being run temporarily by Franks’ brother, Peter Balistrieri. There must have been some kind of love, hate thing going on, it was reported that Frank was at Sally's Steak House very late on Christmas Eve, 1968. Frank's wife called Sally and warned her to stay away from Frank.

“Sally saw herself as a big shot but was in reality, a hard-hearted she-wolf.” After paying for the advanced schooling of one of her chefs, the chef decided to leave Sally’s and start up his own restaurant called the Northridge Inn. Sally was livid about it and in retaliation, had the place burned down. “But Sally, ever vindictive, wasn’t satisfied with torching the restaurant. She also ordered the crushing of the cook’s hands”. A confidential informant tipped off the FBI and they notified the Milwaukee Police. “Two detectives were on their way to interview the victim that evening when they spotted a car cruising slowly in the area of the chef’s residence. The cops pulled the suspicious vehicle over and began questioning the two occupants, when they spotted two baseball bats partially hidden under the front seat of the car. The men were immediately arrested for having concealed weapons and for suspicion of attempted assault.” One of the men, Jack Schlecter decided to cooperate with police and started wearing a wire. Indictments were returned on September 24, 1975. Sally, along with five of her employees were arrested and a trial ensued. "The trial of the Queen Bee and her co-conspirators was covered by all the Milwaukee media outlets, and Sally's name and face were flashed on television screens and in newspapers day after day." Sally ended up being represented by Frank Balistrieri’s lawyer son, Joseph! She and her crew were all found guilty and sent to prison for extortion and conspiracy.

Sally’s long time maitre d’ and convicted felon, Max J. Adonnis was found murdered in 1989.
In 1990, a grand jury hearing led to another indictment against Sally. She was tried for making illegal payments to Local 122 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders Union in an effort to keep employees from becoming union members. She was sentenced and did eight months in a federal prison in Kentucky in 1991.
On a January day in 2005, Sally, age 75, was a passenger in a car with her daughter Candy driving. Candy, age 51, drove off a slippery road head on into a tree killing her instantly. Sally died a few days later from her injuries. One of Milwaukee’s most colorful figures had died. She had dated a high-profile lawyer, a Chicago mobster, a cop, a banker and was friends with Senator Herb Kohl and numerous judges. Headline from Bill Janz, longtime columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in his his 2005 piece, “Papia’s Life Revolved Around Restaurants and Mobsters”. He did a very interesting column on her after her death, you can read it at the following link.,3180851
Link to Gary Magnesen's book "Straw Men"
Related Posts:
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaulee's most dangerous mobster
Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggerio-The real story of the "wise guy"
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
Milwaukee Mob Attorney - Tale of a Double Life
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef - Part 1
The New York Mob and Iowa Beef Processors - Part II
Sally Papia - A life lived on the edge
The Milwakee Mob Hit on Anthony Biernat
The Milwaukee Mob Hit on August Palimisano
New York's "Joe Bananas" meets Milwaukee's Frank "Mad Bomber" Balistrieri
The Life and Times of a Chicago Mafia Hit Man
From Balistrieri's Bag Man to Investigative Reporter
Louis Fazio - Milwaukee Mob Hit or Robbery?


  1. The guy whose restaurant was burned was Kurt Amidzich. Kurt is the brother of Pizza Man founder Mike Amidzich. Tony Pipito was one of the thugs that were supposed to beat Kurt and also firebombed his car. Pipito and Max Adonis are rumored to be the killers of Izzy Pogrob that ran the Brass Rail.