Di Pisa was described by Norman Lewis in "The Honoured Society" as a "a garish young freebooter, habitually begloved, shirted in a puce silk and with a coat of the palest camel hair – a kind of latter-day George Raft. He drove a butter-coloured, gadget-festooned Alfa Romeo, and with his dandified presence he was anathema to the mafiosi of the old school …." Di Pisa was a contrabandist in cigarettes and was actively involved in the flourishing real-estate racket, known as the "Sack of Palermo", during the reign of Salvo Lima as mayor of Palermo.
Di Pisa was present at a series of meetings in the hotel Delle Palme and the Spanò seafood restaurant between top American and Sicilian mafiosi in Palermo on October 12-16, 1957. Joseph Bonnano, Lucky Luciano, John Bonventre, Frank Garofalo, Santo Sorge and Carmine Galante were among the American mafiosi present, while among the Sicilian side were Salvatore Greco "Ciaschiteddu" and his cousin Salvatore Greco, known as "l'ingegnere" or "Totò il lungo", Giuseppe Genco Russo, Angelo La Barbera, Gaetano Badalamenti and Tommaso Buscetta.
Di Pisa was killed on December 26, 1962, on the Piazza Principe di Camporeale in Palermo while walking to a tobacco kiosk. Three men shot him with a sawn-off shotgun and a revolver. None of the bystanders on the square could even recall hearing any shots, when questioned by the police.
Di Pisa’s murder triggered the outbreak of the First Mafia War. The conflict erupted over an underweight shipment of heroin. The shipment was financed by Cesare Manzella, the Greco cousins from Ciaculli and the La Barbera brothers from Palermo Centre. Suspicion of double-crossing fell on Di Pisa, who had collected the heroin for Manzella from the Corsican supplier, Pascal Molinelli, and had organised the transport to Manzella’s partners in New York.
Di Pisa was summoned to appear before the Sicilian Mafia Commission but managed to convince most of the members that he was not guilty. However, the La Barbera brothers contested the decision, and they were suspected to be behind the murder of Di Pisa. The disagreement led to a bloody conflict between the Grecos and the La Barberas. The war ended with the Ciaculli massacre which changed the Mafia war into a war against the Mafia. It prompted the first concerted anti-mafia efforts by the state in post-war Italy. The Sicilian Mafia Commission was dissolved and of those mafiosi who had escaped arrest many went abroad.
Only later it became clear that Mafia boss Michele Cavataio had killed Di Pisa, according to Tommaso Buscetta after he became a cooperating witness in 1984. Cavataio had lost out to the Grecos in a war of the wholesale market in the mid 1950s. Cavataio killed Di Pisa in the knowledge that the La Barberas would be blamed by the Grecos and a war would be the result. He kept fueling the war through other bomb attacks and killings.