Born in Naples, Italy, Boiardo's family immigrated to the Newark area in 1910. His first criminal activity involved bookmaking while he worked as a milkman. Boiardo eventually controlled criminal activities in the First Ward section of Newark. During the Prohibition era, Boiardo fought with Jewish mobster Abner "Longy" Zwillman for control of criminal rackets in Newark. Despite this animosity, the two mobsters were brought together, allegedly orchestrated by Charles "Lucky" Luciano, and made peace with each other. Sometime later, Boiardo was ambushed and seriously wounded with 12 buckshot pellet wounds. At the time, the press suspected Zwillman was responsible, but later evidence pointed to the members of another rival gang led by the Mazzocchi brothers, whom the Boot subsequently had murdered. In the 1930s, Boiardo became a made man, or full member of the new Luciano crime family established by Lucky Luciano. In 1957, this family became the Genovese family under boss Vito Genovese. With Zwillman's death in 1959, Boiardo became the undisputed mob boss of Newark.
Boiardo also owned a residence in Havana, Cuba, and Florida where he had majority gambling interests in the early hotel/casinos.
The creator of the TV series The Sopranos, David Chase, said the Soprano family was based on the Boiardo crime family and the DeCavalcante crime family and their crews.
Author Richard Linnett has written a biography of Boiardo, In The Godfather Garden: The Long Life and Times of Richie the Boot Boiardo, based on archival material, classified and unclassified FBI and police files, interviews with family and friends, and the personal recollections of the Boot's grandson Roger Hanos. The book was published by Rutgers University Press in March 2013.