A bit of tragic news, this morning: famed Sopranos actor Frank Pellegrino has died. The actor and restaurant owner was 72 years old.
— Wetpaint (@WetpaintTV) February 1, 2017
Fox News was the first to report about the death of the Sopranos actor, who had been battling cancer. Pellegrino’s death was confirmed to the outlet by his close friend, Bo Dietl, who emphasized how important it was that people remember Pellegrino, not just as an actor, but as someone who owned a legendary restaurant that made the Harlem district of New York City legendary in its own right.
“We lost a part of New York today when we lost Frankie. There’s nobody like him, he’s an icon. Rao’s may be over 100 years old, but the person who made Rao’s what it is, was Frankie. It is a place that is so unique because of him and it not going to be the same without him. He was big-hearted and generous and always took care of people. What a shining star and a big personality, I will miss singing along with him every Thursday night.”
— Tommy Garrett (@LightfootInHwd) February 1, 2017
The New York Daily News has reported that the Sopranos actor had been battling cancer since last year, and had been receiving treatments at Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer center in Manhattan, which has long been regarded as one of the best hospitals in the world for cancer treatments.
In addition to his role as FBI bureau chief Frank Cubitoso on the hit HBO show, Pellegrino was known for turning Rao’s, a small Italian eatery on E. 114th Street in New York City, into a landmark venue, with such celebrities as Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and President Bill Clinton providing their patronage.
New York Daily News columnist Linda Stasi, who was another patron of the restaurant and a close friend of Pellegrino’s, released a statement to the outlet expressing her remorse about the loss of her friend.
“The last chapter of my upcoming book takes place between the protagonist and Frankie Pellegrino at Rao’s. He was my dear friend for many, many years. I’m devastated.”
Frank Pellegrino you will be missed. pic.twitter.com/clQIsjULzd
— Clark J. Pena (@ClarkPenaEH) February 1, 2017
And, according to Page Six, Stasi’s sentiments echo those of many New Yorkers who understood the various layers of the Sopranos actor. Even though Pellegrino was undergoing intense treatment for his cancer, he still found time to stop by his restaurant and give thanks to the regular customers of the eatery.
A tribute to Frank Pellegrino is scheduled to take place at the restaurant on Tuesday night of next week.
In addition to his work as a Sopranos actor, Pellegrino is known for his work on Goodfellas (in which he was cast, personally, by Martin Scorsese) and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Though Pellegrino began working at Rao’s in 1972, it was only after he took over the ownership of the restaurant that it became the coveted celebrity go-to Italian eatery in New York City.
And many diners credit Pellegrino’s larger-than-life personality with the restaurant’s success.
Bo Dietl told Page Six that Pellegrino never complained, no matter how bad the cancer treatments got.
“He never complained once, he was always upbeat. I am going to miss my best friend, he was one of the bravest guys I ever met.”
Pellegrino leaves behind a wife, Josephine, a daughter, and a son (who runs the Rao’s outposts in Las Vegas and Los Angeles).
May the acclaimed Sopranos actor, restaurateur, and consummate New Yorker rest in peace.
[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Caesars]