Born in Lower East Side, Manhattan to Salvatore Esposito Vulgo Gigante (April 26, 1900- April 1979), a jewel engraver, and Yolanda Santasilia-Gigante (1902-May 10, 1997), a seamstress.
His parents were first generation immigrants from Naples, Italy and never learned the English language. As a teenager Gigante became protégé of Genovese crime family patriarch Vito Genovese and Philip Lombardo.
Between the ages of 17 and 25, he was arrested seven times on charges ranging from receiving stolen goods, possession of an unlicensed handgun and for illegal gambling and bookmaking.
Most of the allegations were dismissed and the longest sentence he served was 60 days for the illegal gambling conviction. During this time he stated that he was employed as a tailor.
Vincent Gigante was a short lived professional light heavyweight boxer who was known as “The Chin” Gigante. He fought 25 matches and lost four, boxing 121 rounds.
On February 19, 1945, he fought Pete Petrello in Madison Square Garden and won by a knock out in the second round. During his successful boxing career he fought in the Light Heavyweight division.
His first professional boxing match was against Vic Chambers on July 18, 1944 in Union City, New Jersey which he lost; he then fought Chambers a second time at the St. Nicholas Arena on June 29, 1945 and defeated him. He defeated him again on June 29, 1945 at Madison Square Garden.
He also fought at the Garden against Luther McMillen on March 8, 1946 which he won, and Buster Peppe on July 19, 1946, which he lost.
On May 2, 1957, Vito Genovese ordered Gigante to murder Genovese family Boss Frank Costello, a close friend of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky and one of the best-known underworld figures in the United States.
Gigante shot Costello as he entered the lobby at 115 Central Park West, where he had an apartment in The Majestic, on the corner of 72nd Street, Manhattan.
Just as Gigante fired his .38-caliber handgun, however, Costello moved, causing the bullet to graze the right side of his head. Because Costello fell down, Gigante thought the mob boss was dead and sped away in a black Cadillac.
Costello refused to identify his attempted assassin leading Gigante to thank Costello in court, but the doorman at 115 Central Park West did.
After Salerno was sent to prison in 1992, Gigante was revealed as the head of the family. With no one to hide behind, Gigante resorted to a tactic that he’d used to beat earlier attempts at criminal convictions: faking insanity.
Between 1969 and 1990, Gigante checked himself into a psychiatric hospital 22 times. The sight of Gigante walking through the streets of Greenwich Village dressed in a bathrobe and mumbling to himself became common.
After his 1997 conviction, Gigante faced new charges in 2003. He admitted that he had been faking his mental problems for roughly three decades to avoid having to stand trial.
Pleading guilty to an obstruction of justice charge, Gigante received an additional three years on his original sentence.