Tony Sirico, best known for portraying Peter Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri in The Sopranos between 1999 and 2007, has died at the age of 79. “It is with great sadness, but with incredible pride, love and a whole lot of fond memories, that the family of Gennaro Anthony ‘Tony’ Sirico wishes to inform you of his death on the morning of July 8, 2022,” his family said in a statement to Deadline. He was just a few weeks short of celebrating his 80th birthday.
His brother, Robert, also confirmed the news via a post on Facebook. “The family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences and requests that the public respect its privacy in this time of bereavement. Memorial donations may be made in his honor to Wounded Warriors, St. Jude’s Hospital and the Acton Institute,” he wrote. A cause of death has not yet been released.
Tony got his start in acting in 1977 and had an affinity for playing gangster characters. He won two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast during his Sopranos days. Some of his other notable projects included 1990’s Goodfellas, 1995’s Mighty Aphrodite, 1996’s Gotti, 1998’s Mob Queen, and 1999’s Mickey Blue Eyes. His last finished piece was 2016’s crime drama, Respect The Jux. At the time of his death, Tony had been cast in or started three unreleased projects, according to IMDb. Tony also had various voice roles, such as Vinny Griffin, the pet dog on Family Guy, and two one-off characters on American Dad.
Tony was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 29, 1942, and didn’t have the best upbringing. He was first arrested at 7 years old for “stealing nickels from a newspaper stand,” per the New York Post. He was arrested 29 times in his life. “I was a pistol-packing guy. The first time I went away to prison, they searched me to see if I had a gun — and I had three of ‘em on me,” the late actor the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “In our neighborhood, if you weren’t carrying a gun, it was like you were the rabbit during rabbit-hunting season.”
Fans, friends, and colleagues were all saddened to hear of the Cafe Society actor’s death. “Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone i’ve ever known. I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good,” his Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli wrote in a remembrance post on Instagram. “And we had a lot of laughs. We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony. I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten. Heartbroken today.”
Tony is survived by his two beloved children, Joanne Sirico Bello and Richard Sirico, and his siblings, grandchildren and several other relatives. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on June 13 at 10:30 a.m. at Brooklyn’s Basilica of Regina Pacis.