Tony Sirico of ‘The Sopranos’ Dead at 79

Tony Sirico at SopranosCon 2019
Tony Sirico at the ‘SopranosCon 2019’ convention in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Image credit: Bobby Bank/Getty Image)

Tony Sirico, who played Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, died July 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 79. Sirico was in an assisted living facility and no cause of death was given. 

Paulie Walnuts was a henchman for mob boss Tony Soprano. A violent man who favored track suits, Paulie Gualtieri got his nickname after hijacking a truck that was supposed to be filled with television sets, but in fact was full of walnuts. 

Gennaro Anthony Sirico was born in Brooklyn in 1942. He grew up in Bensonhurst and watched how the local mafia men carried themselves. He turned to a life of crime, and ended up at prison Sing Sing. While incarcerated, Sirico saw a troupe of actors who were ex-convicts, according to The New York Times, and thought he’d give acting a shot. 

He fared well. Sirico’s films included Love & Money, The Pick-Up Artist and Goodfellas, and several Woody Allen movies, including Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite and Deconstructing Harry

The Sopranos ran on HBO from 1999 to 2007. 

“I adore Tony Sirico,” co-star Lorraine Bracco shared on social media. “A stand-up guy who always had my back and who loved my children and my parents. I have a lifetime of memories with Tony — starting with Goodfellas to The Sopranos and beyond — but my God, did we have fun doing The Bensonhurst Spelling Bee.” ■

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.