Joe Pistone had thought he was going to go undercover for six months. Instead, he vanished for six years.
You see, he was already practically a wiseguy. He had grown up among the Mafia in Paterson, New Jersey, and had worked the same kind of jobs. Like many involved in the Mob, Pistone was of Sicilian descent and spoke Italian, and they accepted him. When he started showing up at Carmello's—a restaurant at 1638 York Avenue on the corner of 86th Street and one block from the East River—he fit in perfectly. He knew it was a spot in Manhattan where wiseguys hung out, and he knew he'd get acquainted eventually. He just didn't know how deep he would get.
Turns out that, to go undercover, Pistone knew how to make all the right moves. He knew that in order to be a good undercover agent, he needed to be a good street agent: someone who understood not just how things worked in an office, but out in the city, too. He knew all about the Mob from growing up around its members; but he had been brought up by a good family whose values led him to join the FBI. The FBI didn't know who he was anymore. No one named Joe Pistone was working there, nor was there one in the company records; his personnel file had been removed and his desk had been entirely cleaned out. As Pistone himself says of his old life: "I obliterated it."
While Pistone was immersing himself in Mob life, the FBI was trying to figure out who this new guy with the Bonanno ...