Carlo Gambino was born in the city of Palermo, Sicily, in 1902, to a family that belonged to the Honored Society. The Honored Society was slightly more complicated than the Black Hand of the United States, which was often confused with the American Mafia. The Black Hand, much like the pre-1920s Mafia, was a highly disorganized version of the real European Mafia. Once Benito Mussolini chased a large number of real mafiosi out of Italy, Italian-Americans such as Gambino benefited from the new, better-organized Mafia. Gambino began carrying out murder orders for new mob bosses in his teens. In 1921, at the age of 19, he became a "made man" and was inducted into Cosa Nostra. He was later known as an "original." He was a cousin and brother-in-law of Gambino crime family mobster Paul Castellano. He had two brothers, Gaspare Gambino, who was never involved with the Mafia, and Paolo Gambino who had a big role in his brother's family.
Gambino entered the United States on December 23, 1921, at Norfolk, Virginia, the lone passenger aboard the ship SS Vincenzo Florio, and an illegal immigrant. He ate nothing but anchovies and wine during the month-long trip and joined his cousins, the Castellanos, in New York City. There he joined a crime family headed by Salvatore "Toto" D'Aquila, one of the larger crime families in the city. Gambino's uncle, Giuseppe Castellano, also joined the D'Aquila family around this time.
Gambino also became involved with the "Young Turks," a group of Americanized Italian and Jewish mobsters in New York which included Frank "Prime Minister" Costello, Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia, Frank Scalice, Gaetano "Tommy Three-Finger Brown" Lucchese, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and Charles "Lucky" Luciano, one of the future's most powerful mob bosses. The crew became involved in robbery, thefts, and illegal gambling. But with their new partner, Arnold "The Brain" Rothstein, they turned to bootlegging during Prohibition in the early 1920s. Gambino also made a sizable profit during World War II by bribing Office of Price Administration (OPA) officials for ration stamps, which he then sold on the black market.
By 1926, Luciano was considered to be a powerful gangster on the rise. His immediate superior, Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, was coming into conflict with Salvatore Maranzano, a recent arrival from Palermo who was born in Castellammare del Golfo. When Maranzano arrived in New York in 1925, his access to money and manpower led him to become involved in bootlegging, extortion and gambling operations that directly competed with Masseria. On October 10, 1928, Masseria eliminated his top rival for the coveted title of capo di tutti capi ("boss of bosses"), Brooklyn boss Salvatore D'Aquila. However, Masseria still had to deal with the powerful Maranzano and his Castellammarese clan. Gambino was thrown right into the line of fire.
Masseria demanded absolute loyalty from the other criminals in his area, and killed anyone who failed to comply. In 1930, Masseria demanded a $10,000 tribute from Maranzano's then-boss, Nicolo "Cola" Schirò, and supposedly got it. Schirò fled New York in fear, leaving Maranzano as the new leader. By 1931, a series of killings in New York involving Castellammarese clan members and associates caused Maranzano and his family to declare war against Masseria and his allies. D'Aquila's family, now headed by Alfred Mineo, sided with Masseria. In addition to Gambino, other prominent members of this family included Luciano associates Albert Anastasia and Frank Scalice. The Castellammarese clan included Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno and Stefano Magaddino, the Profaci crime family, which included Joe Profaci and Joseph Magliocco – Bonanno's cousin – along with former Masseria allies the Reina family, which included Gaetano "Tom" Reina, Tommaso "Tommy" Gagliano, and Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese.
The Castellammarese War raged on between the Masseria and Maranzano factions for almost two years, devastating the Prohibition era operations and street rackets that the five New York families controlled along with the Irish and Jewish crime groups. The war cut into gang profits and, in some cases, completely destroyed the underworld rackets of crime family members.
Several Young Turks on both sides realized that if the war did not stop soon, the Italian families could be left on the fringe of New York's criminal underworld while the Jewish and Irish crime bosses became dominant. Additionally, they felt that Masseria, Maranzano, and other old-school mafiosi, whom they derisively called "Mustache Petes," were too greedy to see the riches that could be had by working with non-Italians. With this in mind, Gambino and the other Young Turks decided to end the war and form a national syndicate. On April 15, 1931, Masseria was gunned down at Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in Coney Island by Anastasia, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, and Bugsy Siegel. Maranzano then named himself capo di tutti capi. In the major reorganization of the New York Mafia that followed, Vincent "The Executioner" Mangano took over the Mineo family, with Anastasia as his underboss and Gambino as a capo. They kept these posts after Maranzano was fatally stabbed and shot on September 10, 1931.
In 1931, after the killings of Masseria and Maranzano, Lucky Luciano created the Commission, which was supposed to avoid big conflicts like the Castellammarese War. The charter members were Luciano, Joseph Bonanno, Joe Profaci, Tommy Gagliano and Vincent Mangano.
Gambino married his first cousin, Catherine Castellano, on December 5, 1926. They raised four children – sons Thomas, Joseph and Carlo, and a daughter, Phyllis. Gambino became a major earner in the Mangano family. His activities included loansharking, illegal gambling and protection money from area merchants. Despite this, Gambino was low-key by inclination. He lived in a modest, well-kept row house in Brooklyn. The only real evidence of vanity was his license plate on his Buick, CG1.
Vincent Mangano led his family for 20 years, even though he and Albert Anastasia never saw eye-to-eye. Mangano was displeased with Anastasia's friendship with Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello, especially since they frequently used Anastasia's services without his permission. Anastasia had been, since the 1930s, the operating head of the syndicate's most notorious death squad, Murder, Inc., which was allegedly responsible for 900-1,000 murders. Mangano and his brother, Phil, supposedly confronted Anastasia several times, in front of Gambino. Eventually, Anastasia stopped asking permission for "every little thing," further angering the Manganos.
On April 19, 1951, Philip Mangano was found murdered and Vincent himself vanished the very same day and was never found. It is widely presumed that Anastasia killed them both. Though Anastasia never admitted to having a hand in the Mangano murders, he managed to convince the heads of the other families that Mangano had been plotting to have him killed, a claim backed up by Costello, the acting boss of the Luciano crime family. Anastasia was named the new boss of the family, with Gambino as his underboss. Gambino was now one of the most powerful mobsters in the business, with a crew making profit of extortion, illegal gambling, hijacking, bootlegging and murder. Shortly afterward, Gambino's cousin and brother-in-law, Paul Castellano (Giuseppe's son), took over as capo of Gambino's old crew.
While Gambino's family enjoyed increased profits, other mobsters, most notably Vito Genovese, grew concerned about Anastasia's violently erratic behavior. In 1952, Anastasia ordered the murder of a young Brooklyn tailor's assistant named Arnold Schuster, after watching Schuster talking on television about his role in the capture of bank robber Willie Sutton. In killing Schuster, Anastasia had violated a Mafia rule against killing outsiders; as Bugsy Siegel once quaintly put it, "We only kill each other." The murder brought unnecessary public scrutiny on Mafia business. Luciano and Costello were horrified by the killing, but they could not take action against Anastasia as he was needed in their power struggle against Genovese. Genovese did not get along with Anastasia, believing he had murdered Mangano. Due to Joseph Bonanno's efforts, war was avoided between the two families. However, Genovese continued to resent Anastasia.
In 1957, Genovese convinced Gambino to side with him against Anastasia, Costello, and Luciano. On Genovese's advice, Gambino told Anastasia that they were not making enough money from casinos in Cuba, which belonged to Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky. After confronting Lansky, Anastasia seemingly threw his support to the Genovese-Gambino alliance. Shortly afterward, Genovese moved against Costello by hiring Vincent "Chin" Gigante to assassinate him. While the attempt failed, it frightened Costello enough to ask the Commission for permission to retire, which they granted. Genovese took over the family and renamed it the Genovese crime family.
With Costello gone, Genovese and Gambino elected to make a preemptive strike against Anastasia. Gambino gave the kill order to Joe Profaci, who then gave it to the Gallo crew, headed by Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo, and they allegedly shot Anastasia on October 25, 1957, in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Gambino then became the new boss of the Mangano crime family, which was renamed the Gambino crime family.
No one was ever charged in the murder. Some sources claim that Gambino gave the kill order to "Joe the Blonde" Biondo, who selected Stephen Armone, Arnold "Witty" Wittenberg, and Stephen "Stevie Coogin" Grammauta to carry out the hit.
Genovese now believed that with Costello and Anastasia out of the way and Gambino supposedly in his debt, the way was clear for him to become "boss of bosses." However, Gambino had his own mind, and secretly aligned himself with Luciano, Costello and Lansky against Genovese. The Costello-Lansky-Luciano-Gambino alliance gained further strength after the Apalachin Conference, supposedly set up to formally crown Genovese as "boss of bosses," ended in disaster with several prominent mafiosi being arrested. Soon afterward, Costello, Luciano, and Lansky met face to face in Italy.
In 1959, Genovese was heading to Atlanta where a huge shipment of heroin was arriving. But when he arrived, Genovese was surprised by local police, the FBI and the ATF. He was convicted for selling a large quantity of heroin and was sentenced to 15 years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Genovese would later die in prison of a heart attack in 1969.
In the early 1960s, Gambino slowly moved against the prominent Anastasia loyalists, headed by caporegime Armand "Tommy" Rava. With Joseph Biondo as a solid underboss, Joseph Riccobono as Gambino's own consigliere, and with his top caporegimes, Aniello "Mr. Neil" Dellacroce, Paul "Big Paul" Castellano, Carmine "The Doctor" Lombardozzi, Joseph "Joe Piney" Armone and Carmine "Wagon Wheels" Fatico, the remaining Anastasia loyalists could never make a move.
Gambino quickly expanded his rackets all over the country. New Gambino rackets were created in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, San Francisco and Las Vegas. Gambino also, to regain complete control of Manhattan, took over the New York Longshoremen Union, where more than 90 percent of all New York City's ports were controlled. It was a great time, when the money rolled in from every Gambino racket in the U.S. and worked its way up to become America's most powerful crime family. Gambino also made his own family policy: "Deal and Die." This was Gambino's message to every Gambino family member; heroin and cocaine were highly lucrative, but were dangerous, and would also attract attention. The punishment for dealing drugs, in Gambino style, was death.
In the 1960s, the Gambino family had 500 (other sources have 700 or 800) soldiers, within 30 crews making the family a $500,000,000-a-year-enterprise. In 1962, his eldest son Thomas Gambino married the daughter of fellow mob boss Tommy Lucchese, the new head of the Gagliano crime family, whom Gambino would become close to as a partner, friend, and relative. More than 1,000 people, relatives, friends, and amico nostro ("friends of ours"), were present during the wedding-ceremony. It has been rumored that Gambino personally gave Lucchese $30,000 as a "welcome gift" that same day. As repayment, Lucchese cut his friend into the airport rackets that were under Lucchese control, especially at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where all unions, management, and security were controlled by Lucchese himself. After Joseph Bonanno was forced into retirement by the Commission, Vito Genovese died of a heart attack, and Tommy Lucchese died of a brain tumor, Gambino's status and power on the Commission was elevated almost immediately. While the Mafia had abolished the title of "boss of bosses," Gambino's position afforded him the powers such a title would have carried, as he was now the boss of the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful crime family in the country and was the head of the Commission, a position only Luciano had held before Gambino.
In February 1962, the Gallo brothers kidnapped a number of prominent members of the Profaci family including underboss Joseph Magliocco and capo Joseph Colombo. In return for their release, the brothers demanded changes in the way profits were divided between crews, and at first Profaci appeared to agree, following negotiations between the captors and Profaci's consigliere, Charles "The Sidge" LoCicero, but Profaci was simply biding his time before taking revenge on the Gallos. Gallo crew member Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli was murdered by Profaci's men in September, and an attempt on Larry Gallo's life was interrupted by policemen in a Brooklyn bar. The brothers set about attacking Profaci's men wherever they saw them as all-out war erupted between the two factions. Plus, Gambino and Lucchese were putting pressure on the other bosses to convince Profaci of stepping down from his title and family, but on June 6, 1962, Profaci lost his battle against cancer. He was replaced as boss of the family by Joseph Magliocco, a man very much in the Profaci mold. Accordingly, Gambino and Lucchese gave their support to the Gallo crew, where Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, the longtime Don of the Bonanno crime family, gave his support to Magliocco and the Profacis.
The Gallo crew gave up later that year. With their caporegime Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo behind bars for racketeering and murder, the Gallo crew from Red Hook didn't have enough manpower to continue the war against the rest of the Profacis. Magliocco and Bonanno had won the Gallo war, and intended to "take care" of their "boss of bosses," Carlo Gambino.
With the Gallos out of the way, Magliocco was able to consolidate his position and concentrate on the business of running the family's affairs. However, Joseph Bonanno hatched a plot to murder the heads of the other three families, which Magliocco decided to go along with. The assassinations went to Profaci capo, Joseph Colombo, who realized that the plot would never amount to anything, and warned Gambino about Magliocco and Bonanno's conspiracy against the Commission. Bonanno and Magliocco were called to face the judgement of the Commission. While Bonanno went into hiding, Magliocco faced up to his crimes. Understanding that he had been following Bonanno's lead, he was let off with a $50,000 fine, and forced to retire as the head of the family, being replaced by Joseph Colombo. One month later, Magliocco died of high blood pressure, but Gambino had other plans for Bonanno.
After Magliocco's death, Bonanno had few allies left. Many members felt he was too power hungry, and one, a boss from Florida, Santo Trafficante, Jr., once said in anger, "He's planting flags all over the world!" Some members of his family also thought he spent too much time away from New York, and more in Canada and Tucson, where he had business interests. The Commission members decided that he no longer deserved leadership over his family and replaced him with a caporegime in his family, Gaspar DiGregorio. Bonanno, however, would not accept this result, breaking the family into two groups, the one led by DiGregorio, and the other headed by Bonanno and his son, Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno. Newspapers referred to it as "The Banana Split."
Since Bonanno refused to give up his position, the other Commission members felt it was time for drastic action.
Gambino was the one who would give the order to have Bonanno killed, but took pity on him and decided to give Bonanno one last chance to retire while he had his life. In October 1964, Bonanno was kidnapped by Buffalo crime family members, Peter and Antonino Magaddino. According to Bonanno, he was held captive in upstate New York by his cousin, Stefano "Steve the Undertaker" Magaddino. Supposedly Magaddino represented the Commission and Gambino, and told his cousin that he "took up too much space in the air," a Sicilian proverb for arrogance. After much talk, Bonanno was released and the Commission members believed he would finally retire and relinquish his power.
Eventually, DiGregorio promised a peace meeting on whatever territory Salvatore wanted. It was an ambush. DiGregorio's men opened fire with rifles and automatic weapons on Salvatore and his associates, who were armed only with pistols. The police estimated that more than 500 shots were fired but remarkably, no one was hurt. The war went on for another two more years. The Commission originally thought they could win, but when Joseph Bonanno returned, their hopes were dashed. Bonanno sent out a message to his enemies, saying that for every Bonanno loyalist killed, he would retaliate by hitting a caporegime from the other side. Just as the Bonanno loyalists were sensing victory, Bonanno suffered a heart attack; he decided that he and his son would retire to Tucson, leaving his broken family to another capo, Paul Sciacca, who had replaced DiGregorio. Gambino stood as the victorious and most powerful mob boss in the US. Having the reputation of Gambino's "mercy," made him even more respectable in front of the Commission.
Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese led a quiet, stable life until he developed a fatal brain tumor and died at his home in Lido Beach, Long Island on July 13, 1967. His funeral at the Calvary Cemetery in Queens, was attended by more than 1,000 mourners, including politicians, judges, policemen, racketeers, drug pushers, pimps, hitmen and Gambino, who allegedly arranged the whole funeral. Lucchese was succeeded as boss by Antonio "Tony Ducks" Corallo.
It has also been theorized that Gambino went so far as to organize the shooting of Joseph Colombo, head of the Colombo crime family, on June 28, 1971. Colombo survived the shooting, but remained in a coma until his death in 1977. The other theory is that Joe Gallo organized the attack himself. It seems that the rest of the Colombo family believed the latter theory, as Gallo was famously gunned down himself not long after. Colombo's increasing media attention was definitely not liked by the other Commission members; that Lucchese withdrew support was evidenced by capo Paul Vario rescinding his membership from the Italian-American Civil Rights League. However Gambino resorting to killing Colombo seems unlikely as there was no substantial benefit for Gambino in it. Gallo and his crew had already started one war against Profaci, during which time they had kidnapped Colombo, and as Colombo had allegedly carried out a number of hits during that war it seems understandable that Gallo would not like him and have designs on becoming boss himself.
However, the theory that Gallo was responsible ignores several pertinent factors. It is true that many powerful members were angry with Colombo for having founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League and glorying in publicity. Gambino hated publicity, always preferring to work in the shadows, and was said to have been quite upset with Colombo about this. As was his style, Gambino did not make a public show of his anger. Gallo had recently been in prison where he had formed close associations with black prisoners who could serve as muscle, a fact that was well known to Gambino. Colombo was shot at a CIAO (Congress of Italian-American Organizations which was an umbrella organization that included Colombo's Italian-American Civil Rights League) rally by a black man who was almost instantly shot and killed. If Gambino arranged the killing, or set the wheels in motion, it was a master stroke. He was rid of a publicity seeking thorn in his side and he got the Colombo family to eliminate Gallo, whose propensity for disruptive violence also displeased the Don. It was also the way Gambino operated: very intelligently, very quietly, but with final brutality.
The police were happy to accept the Gallo theory, as was the Colombo crime family, but as time went on, the theory of Gambino as the mastermind gained currency within the "mob." Though it is unknown who was truly responsible for the deaths, they ultimately improved the stability of the Gambino empire as the old Don faded.
Gambino was also the only mob boss of the Five Families who attended the burial of the longtime friend Charles "Lucky" Luciano. On January 26, 1962, Luciano died of a heart attack at the age of 64 at Naples International Airport. He was buried in St. John Cemetery in Queens, 1972, more than ten years after his death because of the terms of his deportation in 1946. More than 2,000 mourners attended his funeral, where Gambino gave his own speech in memory of Luciano, his friend and companion.
After the imprisonment of Vito Genovese in 1959, Thomas "Tommy Ryan" Eboli was made acting boss. He kept his position after Genovese died in jail in 1969, but, believing that he would need an infusion of money to re-organize the Genovese crime family, Eboli borrowed $4,000,000 from Gambino. Eboli's ability to repay the funds, however, was hindered by the subsequent arrest of and imprisonment of his crew; the arrests were allegedly arranged by Gambino because he wanted his friend Frank Tieri at the head of the Genovese family. When the loan came due, Eboli refused to repay Gambino, claiming that he didn't have enough money. Eboli was murdered on July 16, 1972 – a crime that remains unsolved – and, under the influence of Gambino, the selection of Frank Tieri as boss of the Genovese crime family was made.
In December 1972, a van marked "Organized Crime Control Bureau" began to park outside Gambino's home in Brooklyn. In the van, the FBI's mob squad monitored events inside the house using cameras, lip-readers, and audio-surveillance equipment, including microphones and wire-taps that were planted in Gambino's home. The FBI maintained 24-hour standby in the van, hoping to connect Gambino to organized crime. However, Gambino continued to conduct business in the home using a combination of silent gestures and coded language. According to FBI officials they once recorded a meeting between Gambino, Aniello Dellacroce and Joseph Biondo, where Biondo said only, "Frog legs," and Gambino simply nodded. The recording tapes came out empty. It was also determined by the OCCB that Antonio Mangotti and Carlo Gambino had not uttered a single word to one another for two years until the birth of his son Antonio "Jovanni" Mangotti on August 29 of 1972. It is said that the only words uttered were "Complimenti" and "Grazie"
In May 1972, Gambino's nephew Emanuel "Manny" Gambino was kidnapped by James McBratney, "Crazy" Eddie Maloney, Warren "Chief" Schurman, Richie Chaisson and Colombo crime family associate Thomas Genovese (a distant relative of Vito Genovese). The gang had previously kidnapped a Lucchese crime family capo, Frank "Frankie the Wop" Manzo. They received a ransom of $150,000 for Manzo's safe return. For Manny Gambino, the kidnappers asked for $350,000, but his brother claimed he could only come up with $40,000. On June 2, 1972, Manny's car was located at the Newark Airport parking lot. On January 26, 1973, his corpse was found to be stiff from rigor mortis before being buried in a sitting position in a New Jersey dump near the Earle Naval Ammunition Depot.
On December 4, 1972, Robert Senter was arrested and charged with Gambino's murder. Senter was a gambler and had fallen in debt with Manny Gambino. On June 1, 1973, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Along with confessing to his participation in the kidnapping and murder, he revealed the identity of his two accomplices, Chaisson and Schurman.
Gambino, seeking revenge, hired John Gotti, a known heavy lifter, on the advice of his underboss Aniello Dellacroce. Gotti met with Gambino, Dellacroce, consigliere Joseph Armone and Gambino's own brother-in-law and top caporegime, Paul Castellano. Gotti was given the assignment of killing James McBratney, the kidnap-for-ransom gang's leader, who played a large role in Manny Gambino's murder. Castellano also wanted Gambino family soldier Ralph Galione to assist Gotti and longtime Gambino family associate Angelo Ruggiero in carrying out the murder. McBratney was shot three times at close range by Galione, after he had overpowered Ruggiero and Gotti, on the night of May 22, 1973, at Snoope's Bar & Grill in Staten Island.
Although Cosa Nostra members show great respect to their superiors, there have been cases of members disrespecting or humiliating a fellow made man. An especially notorious case is that of Dominick "Mimi" Scialo – a feared and respected soldier of the Colombo family who had control over the vast area of Coney Island. When under the influence of alcohol, Scialo would become very arrogant, loud and disrespectful. One day in October 1974 Scialo was at a popular Italian restaurant where he spotted Carlo Gambino and began to harass him, insulting Gambino in front of others. Gambino stayed calm, as he always was, did not retaliate and did not say a word. Scialo's body was found not long after at Otto's Social Club in South Brooklyn encased in the concrete floor.
Gambino was disappointed with both his own underboss, Aniello Dellacroce and Dellacroce's ambitious protégé John Gotti, so Gambino reorganized. Now, with a weak heart, he decided there was to be two underbosses who both reported to him, Dellacroce and Gambino's own brother-in-law, Paul Castellano. Dellacroce would have free rein over those crews who carried out more traditional, 'hands-on' Mafia activities and the blue-collar crimes, such as murder for hire, loansharking, gambling, extortion, hijacking, pier thefts, fencing, and robbery. Castellano took over the white-collar crimes in Brooklyn like union racketeering, solid and toxic waste, recycling, construction, fraud and wire fraud. This strategic restructuring also created confusion in the FBI in the mid 1970s as to who the official underboss in the family was. In reality, the Gambino family was split into two separate factions, with one Don and two underbosses.
In his last years, Gambino still ruled his family and the other New York families with an iron fist, while keeping a low profile both from the public and law enforcement. He had to choose who he would appoint as his successor after his departure. He chose his brother in-law and capo, Paul Castellano, over his underboss, Aniello Dellacroce. Dellacroce, while disappointed, trusted "the Godfather's" judgement, and remained silent.
Gambino died in the early morning hours of Friday, October 15, 1976, at his home in Massapequa, New York, having watched the television broadcast of his beloved New York Yankees winning the American League pennant the previous evening. The official cause was natural causes; however, his death was not unexpected, given a recent history of heart disease. Cusimano & Russo Funeral Home hosted his wake on October 16 and 17, 1976. His funeral mass was held on October 18, 1976, at the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Brooklyn. Gambino was then entombed within his family's private room in the Cloister building of Saint John's Cemetery, Queens in New York City. He is interred beside his wife, Catherine, who had died in 1971. Gambino left behind sons Thomas, Joseph and Carlo, and daughter Phyllis.
Longtime associate Charles Luciano and many other lifetime friends are also interred in Saint John's Cemetery. After leading the Gambino crime family for 20 years, and the Commission for more than 15 years, Gambino left a crew estimated to be 500 soldiers and 1,000 associates. Some sources state that Gambino's funeral was attended by at least 2,000 people, including police officers, judges and politicians, and that his funeral motorcade exceeded 100 vehicles.
Gambino's permanent residence was a modest house located at 2230 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Gambino's Long Island residence, located at 34 Club Drive in Massapequa, served as his summer home. The two-story brick house, surrounded by a low fence with marble statues on the front lawn, was at the end of a cul-de-sac in Harbor Green Estates, overlooking the South Oyster Bay. He also maintained the house next door as a residence for his bodyguard."The Godfather" was one of Gambino's nicknames and possibly the origin of the title of Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather.
In the 1996 TV film Gotti, Carlo Gambino is portrayed by Marc Lawrence as the head of the Gambino family towards his death in 1976.
In the 1999 comedy movie Analyze This, fictional mobster Primo Sindone makes a reference that, "Genovese forgot to kill Gambino before the meeting, I'm not gonna make that same mistake."
In the 2001 TV film Boss of Bosses, Carlo Gambino is portrayed by Al Ruscio, was shown from his early years in the Cosa Nostra till his death when Paul Castellano was chosen to succeed him.
In the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, the character Jon Gravelli is heavily based on Carlo Gambino due to almost identical looks and being the boss of the most powerful family on the game called the Gambetti.
In a 2011 episode of Pawn Stars, Rick bought a check made out to and endorsed by Gambino.
In the 2015 AMC mini series The Making of the Mob: New York, Carlo Gambino is portrayed by Noah Forrest.