Frank Pellegrino Rao's restaurant owner and 'Goodfellas,' 'Sopranos' actor dead at 72

He told the paper that Pellegrino died just before 2 p.m.at Manhattan's Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, surrounded by family.

Pellegrino's big break came in Martin Scorsese's 1990 classic Goodfellas, the first of many gangster-genre roles, peaking with his work as Frank Cubitoso on The Sopranos, a bureau chief tasked with the Soprano-DiMeo case.

Pellegrino was also co-owned the restaurant Rao's in East Harlem, New York City.

Many Rao's regulars were expected to gather at the restaurant to pay tribute to Frankie on Tuesday night. The tables were given out to old time customers when the place became hot some years ago.

'We lost a part of NY today when we lost Frankie.

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"Even on his darkest days, sometimes he'd go from chemo and show up at Rao's", said Dietl. "Warren Buffett was one of those who wanted a table and faced Frankie's famous 'no'". What a shining star and a big personality.

The East Harlem restaurant Rao's, which was founded in 1896, has a reputation as a haunt for celebrities including Scorsese and Jay Z. "I am going to miss my best friend, he was one of the bravest guys I ever met", Dietl added.

May the acclaimed Sopranos actor, restaurateur, and consummate New Yorker rest in peace. He also expressed his love for Italian cooking through his cookbooks, "Rao's Cookbook" and "Rao's Recipes from the Neighborhood".

Pellegrino's other roles included stints on the television series Law & Order and New York Undercover, and in the films Cop Land and It Could Happen to You.

He leaves behind a son Frankie Jr, who runs Rao's outposts in LA and Las Vegas, a daughter, and wife Josephine.

  • Michelle Webb