Sopranos actor Frank Pellegrino is dead at 72 from lung cancer.
When it came to his acting career, Pellegrino was best known for his roles in projects like Goodfellas and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, though he made a name for himself in the business playing FBI Chief Frank Cubitoso on The Sopranos from 1999 to 2004.
But he wasn’t just an actor. Pellegrino was also a well-known restaurateur. He co-owned the Italian restaurant Rao’s, which was first established in 1896 by Pellegrino’s great-uncle Charles Rao. The spot is still known in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood as a celebrity hotspot. Even the restaurant has made a name for itself in the film world, being featured in The Wolf of Wall Street, Law & Order and even on Top Chef.
Pellegrino’s longtime friend, Fox Business’ Charles Gasparino, took to Facebook to pay tribute to Pellegrino and his lasting legacy, writing, “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. [Business mogul] Warren Buffett was one of those who wanted a table and faced Frankie’s famous ‘no.'”
He added, “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 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., who also serves as a co-owner of Rao’s. Us Weekly reports the restaurant will be closed the upcoming week due to Pellegrino’s death.
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