The masked gunman ran into a swanky Italian restaurant and leveled a shotgun at the pizza maker.

"I put the shotgun in his face and I shoot," the gunman testified in federal court last month. "The shotgun didn't go off. I shoot again. Again nothing."No wonder. Mob hit man Rosario Conti Bellocchi said he had the wrong size shells loaded in his shotgun on his mission to kill Biagio Adornetto, an out-of-favor gang soldier.

Tales told by inept former hit men who failed more often than they succeeded were a big part of a trial that ended last week with the conviction of mob boss John Stanfa and seven associates on racketeering charges.

Prosecutors said the stories the hit men told about three killings during Stanfa's reign went a long way toward convincing the jury that the boss ordered the hits.

The jury also heard accounts of hits that missed.

The targets of most of the botched hits were Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino and a gang of young upstarts he led in battle against Stanfa over lucrative gambling and extortion business.

Philip Colletti and John Veasey testified that they worked practically around the clock to kill the "Young Turks" in 1993.

Once, questioned about the date of an attempted hit, Veasey, a bull-necked former junkie, simply smiled and shook his head.

"I don't know sir, we were trying to kill people every day," he said.

To dispatch Merlino, Colletti said he built a remote-control bomb that was planted under Merlino's car several times but failed to detonate.

That frustrated Frank Martines, one of those convicted, Colletti said.

"Frankie said that his instructions from John Stanfa were to make sure the next time we put it where it was gonna go, that it was gonna go off," Colletti recalled.

It didn't, even after Martines replaced the bomb's blasting cap, he said.

One plot called for Colletti's wife, Brenda, a former nude dancer, to slip cyanide into the drinks of the Merlino gang at a river-front bar. She refused.

Colletti and Veasey spotted Merlino and Michael Ciancaglini on a street in August 1993 and opened fire, killing Ciancaglini.

Merlino escaped with a bullet in the buttocks.

Then Veasey realized the car from which they did their shooting could be traced to Colletti - it was leased in his name.

Before reporting the car stolen, they doused it with gasoline. At the same time Colletti tossed a match, Veasey reached inside to grab some coins.

At home, Veasey soaked his severely burned hand in lighter fluid and set it afire a second time to set up an alibi.

"I screamed and told the neighbors I had burned it trying to light the grill," he recalled.

Veasey said he once used a power drill to torture a man who threatened him.

"I stuck the drill in his chest, his legs, then I hit him in the knee with a baseball bat."

None of the injuries was serious. "The drill bit broke," he said.

Then there was the attempt by Martines and co-defendant Vincent "Al Pajamas" Pagano to kill Veasey, whom they suspected of stealing money and squealing to the feds.

Martines put a gun to Veasey's head and pulled the trigger several times, wounding Veasey in the head and chest, Veasey said.

"He said, `Bye Johnny' and then POW! POW! POW!" he testified. "I spun around, `Frank what are you doing?' They was my friends. I didn't think they'd shoot me."

He escaped after a fight. And he really had started talking to the FBI, just three days earlier.

Veasey's testimony was a defense lawyer's nightmare, said Brian McMonagle, who represented Martines.

"There was overwhelming evidence, not the least of which was a live witness with two bullets in the back of his head," McMonagle said. "That's a lot to overcome."

Veasey, Colletti and Bellocchi pleaded guilty to racketeering charges and face possible life sentences.