Joe Barbaro is the secondary protagonist of Mafia II, the protagonist of Joe's Adventures, and Vito Scaletta's best friend. While Vito was fighting in World War II, Joe began working for the Clemente Crime Family. When Vito returned, Joe invites him to join in on his life of crime.
- "Wiseguys. You work for them, you're set. You fuck with 'em, you die."
- — Joe Barbaro
Joe Barbaro is a career criminal and lifelong friend of Vito Scaletta. Brash and unpredictable, Joe can seemingly make trouble out of nothing. As a child, Joe was the neighborhood bully. He met Vito when the younger boy offered to fight him for a place in his gang. Over the next ten years, the two of them made a great team, rational Vito keeping wild Joe in check as they enjoyed a life of petty crime. These days, Joe lives large - strong booze, fast cars, and loose women. Moving up the criminal ladder is the perfect way for him to feed his vices.
Joe greets Vito upon his return from war and while the two catch up at Freddy's Bar, Joe discovers that he's only on leave for a month. Not wanting his friend to leave again, he arranges forged discharge documents through his criminal contacts to ensure Vito can stay in Empire Bay. The next day he gets Vito settled with a car and a little money in his pocket. He then introduces him to Henry Tomasino, a made man in the Clemente crime family, who offers Vito a job robbing gas ration stamps from the Office of Price Administration.
After Vito's success, Joe brings him in on a job robbing a jewelry store owned by a man who owes Alberto Clemente money. The robbery goes according to plan until the O'Neill Gang try to rob the same store. After a brief shootout with the gang and then police, the two manage to get away with the jewels. About a week later, Joe is at a meeting with Henry and Luca Gurino when Vito arrives. They discuss opportunities for joining the Clemente family and then sit down with Henry to plan their next job, an ambush-style hit to kill Sidney Pen and his men outside of his distillery in Sand Island. When the plan fails, the trio must chase him inside, finally cornering him on the upper floor. After Pen gets off a lucky shot, wounding Henry, Joe and Vito gun him down. Joe carries Henry out of the now burning distillery and tends to him while Vito drives them to a mob doctor for treatment.
Joining the Falcone Family
After Vito's arrest, Joe is sent to find the witness who squealed and persuade him not to testify. He tracks him to the train station and convinces him not to return to Empire Bay, but in the process learns of an even bigger rat, Richie Mazzeo, who intends to testify against the entire Clemente organization. Joe is then ordered to find Mazzeo and shut him up for good.
After discovering where the police are keeping Mazzeo, Joe kills him, presumably by shoving him and his car into the icy Culver reservoir, and thinks Vito will be in the clear. However, all his efforts seem to be for nothing as his best friend is sentenced to 10 years in prison three months later at his trial. An angry Joe rushes to Freddy's bar where he runs his mouth off at Luca Gurino, asking what the hell happened, which angers Luca immensely. In the aftermath, Joe receives a call from Henry, who warns him that Luca has put a contract out on him. Joe then leaves Empire Bay and hides down south for five years.
Joe arranged his return to Empire Bay through Tony Balls, a soldato in the Falcone family. Over the next year he received a steady flow of work from his new crime family, eventually earning the respect of Don Carlo Falcone and his underboss Eddie Scarpa when he thwarted an assassination attempt on their lives by Rocco, one of the family's capos. After killing Rocco, he joined a sit-down between the Clemente and Falcone crime families, presumably to settle the issue of the hit contract they had on Joe. When Joe sees Luca at this meeting, he gives him the middle finger.
After Vito's release, Joe sets him up with a new apartment and later introduces him to Eddie Scarpa for a night out at the Garden of Eden. Not wanting to waste any time, the next morning he enlists Vito's help selling a truck load of stolen cigarettes. The job goes smoothly until they encounter a group of Greasers, who set the truck on fire, destroying it along with its cargo. After killing their leader, Billy Barnes, the two join up with Steve and Marty to take out the gang and recoup their money by selling their cars.
Through hard work and dedication, Joe earns the trust and respect of Don Carlo Falcone and, along with Vito, is brought into the Falcone family as a made man. With things looking up for Joe, he and Vito are given the job of killing Alberto Clemente while he attends a family meeting at the Empire Arms Hotel. Though the job didn't go as planned, they ultimately succeeded, with Joe gunning down Clemente on the streets of Empire Bay. Unfortunately, Joe's young friend and protege Marty was killed in the process. Later that night as Joe tries to drink away his problems, he accidentally kills a bartender in a drunken stupor and has to rely on Vito to clean up his mess once again.
As always, Joe soon makes it up to Vito when the O'Neill gang, now led by Mickey Desmond, burn down Vito's house in retaliation for killing Brian O'Neill in prison. After a quick phone call, Joe tracks them down to the Hill of Tara bar and accompanies his friend there to settle things for good. With his best friend now broke and homeless, he gives Vito the keys to Marty's old apartment so he has a place to stay.
Later, Joe and Henry meet Vito in Lincoln Park to discuss entering the drug business and decide to borrow $35,000 from Bruno Levine, an area loan shark who wants $55,000 in return. Expecting to make good money on the deal they agree and buy the product from the Empire Bay Triads. With the drugs in hand, they begin selling it off to the Bombers and other area gangs, allowing Henry to hold onto the money.
Not long after, he and Vito go to meet Henry in the park after they discover that Falcone found out about the drugs and demanded a $60,000 cut. However, when they arrive, they see Henry being butchered by the Triads, taking their money in the process. Joe and Vito follow the Triad enforcer Zhe Yun Wong to The Red Dragon, a restaurant in Chinatown that serves as his base of operations. Hot-headed as always, Joe talks Vito into taking revenge right then and there.
After killing all the other Triads in the restaurant, Vito and Joe finally approach Wong himself and interrogate him about why he killed Henry. Wong reveals that he found out from his source at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics that Henry was working for them, which Joe and Vito refuse to believe. Joe kills Wong, much to the displeasure of Vito, who believed they could have interrogated him further to get more information.
With a large debt to pay back, Joe and Vito take any job they can get. Eddie offers them a hit contract on a former Salieri Crime Family soldato turned rat, Tommy Angelo. Driving a Smith Thunderbolt supplied to them for this occasion, they track down Angelo at his house in Greenfield, and once Vito delivers the prescribed message, Joe guns him down.
Later that day while trying to earn more money, Joe manages to get himself taken by Frank Vinci and his men to be interrogated at the nearby Midtown Construction Site. When Vito shows up with Vinci's men as well, the two manage to get free and shoot their way out of the building. Badly injured, Joe is taken to El Greco for treatment and gives Vito his half of the money to finally pay back the loan shark.
In the aftermath of the mess Joe created by started a war with the Triads, it is learned that Frank Vinci has put out a hit contract on Falcone that was to be carried out by none other than Vito Scaletta. While Falcone lures Vito to the Zavesky Observatory, he offers Joe a promotion to capo and his own crew if he kills Vito. While it's unknown whether Joe was considering the offer or just playing along, he ultimately chooses his friend over the promotion and helps Vito kill Falcone and his men.
After Vito kills Falcone, the two leave the observatory. Joe is uneasy when he notices a large group of Vinci's men outside, but Vito assures him everything is alright. While Vito joins Leo Galante in his limo, Joe is led to another vehicle with some of Vinci's men for what he thinks is going to be a night of celebration at the cathouse. A short while into the drive, the car he's riding in turns a different direction from Vito's.
He was being taken to answer for his role in starting a war with the Triads, but along the way he managed to overpower the men he was with, knocking out the front teeth and cracking an eye socket of one of them. He got loose and left Empire Bay, eventually ending up in Chicago where he turned to some guys he knew for help.
According to a source close to Vito, those men turned on him. He was severely beaten, had his hands cut off and face smashed to hell. When it was over there wasn't anything left for anyone to find or identify. Vito then spent a decade tracking down those he thought responsible, finally turning to Lincoln Clay to seek his revenge. 
- Tommy Angelo (former soldato, Salieri Crime Family)
- Richie Mazzeo (soldato, Clemente Crime Family)
- Zhe Yun Wong (enforcer, Empire Bay Triads)
- Rocco (capo, Falcone Crime Family)
- Billy Barnes (boss, Greasers)
- Alberto Clemente (boss, Clemente crime family)
- Carlo Falcone (boss, Falcone crime family)
- His name is a reference to Sicilian mobster Giuseppe "Joe" Barbaro.
- Joe seems to be influenced by Tommy DeVito from the 1990 gangster movie Goodfellas.
- A news report on Empire Central Radio during Stairway to Heaven describes Joe as a "heavily built man with a loud mouth and an even louder outfit."
- Joe has the most uses of the word "fuck" of any character in the game.
- Joe is the only character besides Vito who appears in every chapter.
- The only time Joe cries in the game is when he cries about Marty's death shortly after killing Alberto Clemente.