‘Sopranos’ Actor Frank Pellegrino Dies at 72 After Battle With Lung Cancer

Frank Pellegrino Sr. arrives at the grand opening party for Rao's at Caesars Palace January 11, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Frank Pellegrino Sr. arrives at the grand opening party for Rao's at Caesars Palace January 11, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Caesars

Sopranos actor Frank Pellegrino has died at age 72 following a battle with lung cancer, Us Weekly can confirm.

The actor was best known for playing FBI Chief Frank Cubitoso on the iconic HBO series from 1999 until 2004. He also starred in 1990’s gangster-themed movie Goodfellas as Johnny Dio, and appeared on Law & Order: Criminal Intent in 2002.

Aside from his acting career, Pellegrino was a successful restaurateur. He co-owned Rao’s, a celeb-loved Italian eatery — first established in 1896 by Pellegrino’s great-uncle Charles Rao — in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood. (Rao’s has sister locations in Las Vegas and Hollywood.)

Some of Pellegrino’s restaurant’s famous customers included Woody Allen, Tony Bennett and Michael Douglas, among others. Rao’s has been featured in films and television shows such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Law & Order, Bravo’s Top Chef and even Jay Z’s “D.O.A.” music video.

An insider tells Us that the restaurant will be closed for a week in the wake of Pellegrino’s death.

Family friend Fox Business’ Charles Gasparino took to Facebook on Tuesday to pay tribute to Pellegrino. “To say Frank was a NY legend is an understatement — he bled this city and its egalitarian promise. People love to talk how no one can get a table at Rao's. Well, that’s true but it misses the point. The tables were given out to old time customers when the place became hot some years ago. New entrants needed to wait their turn to ‘own’ a table, and it didn’t matter who they were,” Gasparino wrote. “[Business mogul] Warren Buffett was one of those who wanted a table and faced Frankie's famous ‘no.’”

“You see, Frankie loved to sing to his patrons and that night [he denied Buffett], as he was belting out The Temptations’ classic ‘My Girl,’ he turned to Buffett and sang: ‘I don't need no money, fortune or fame…I've got all the riches, baby, one man can claim,’” he continued. “He did of course: His family, friends, his restaurant and his acting. Frank, I’m going to miss you screaming at me that is until we meet on the other side. RIP my friend.”

Pellegrino is survived by his son Frank Pellegrino, Jr. Funeral and memorial services have yet to be announced.

 

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