Born in New York City to a traditional Italian family Gennaro Anthony “Tony” Sirico Jr. grew up in the Brooklyn borough, in the East Flatbush and Bensonhurst neighborhoods. Sirico’s brother, Robert Sirico, is a Catholic priest and co-founder of the free-market Acton Institute.
Tony, on the other hand, was convicted of several crimes and was arrested 28 times, including for disorderly conduct, assault, and robbery, before taking up acting. On February 27, 1970, he was arrested at a restaurant, and found concealing a .32 caliber revolver. In 1971, he was indicted for extortion, coercion, and felony weapons possession, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison, of which he served 20 months at Sing Sing.
So, when Tony turned to act in 1974, he felt most comfortable in roles portraying either cops or criminals… mostly Italian gangsters. Sirico’s most acclaimed acting job was that of Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri in the Emmy award-winning drama, The Sopranos.
He originally auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior, but Dominic Chianese landed the role. Sirico was instead offered the role of Paulie Gualtieri; he agreed under the condition that his character would never become a rat.
Many of the cast were well known for smoking cigars on the show and Tony was no different. While James Gandolfini often shared CAO Cigars with him, Sirico preferred Bahia Cigars.
In 2001, while still involved with The Sopranos, Sirico filmed Smokin’ Stogies with Joseph Marino and fellow Sopranos star Frank Vincent. Tony plays a New York mob boss who sends his trusted henchman (Joe Marino) to Miami in order to find missing Cuban cigars. One IMDb reviewer stated, “One of the funniest independent movies I’ve seen… lots of funny characters… a dark comedy adventure; better than expected.”
In 2007, a cigar humidor owned by Tony Sirico was auctioned off at the Satin Dolls Charity Auction. The cedar handmade Italian humidor with all documents and receipts brought in $674.00 for the charity.
Sadly in 2019, Tony was diagnosed with dementia, his children moved him into an assisted living facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and he died on July 8th this year (2022).
Tony’s brother, Father Robert Sirico celebrated his funeral mass at Basilica of Regia Pacis in Brooklyn, along with fellow cast members and “loyal and exuberant fans” who came to pay their respects. “My friends, if Paulie Walnuts can steal heaven, so can you and I,” Robert told the solemn crowd, which included Sirico’s former “Sopranos” co-stars Lorraine Bracco, Steven VanZandt, Michael Imperioli, and Joseph Gannascoli – all of whom lit up a cigar in his honor after the service. May fellow cigar aficionado, Tony Sirico forever Rest In Peace.