To quote his most famous character, here’s to a “half o’ wiseguy.”
Tony Sirico — best known for his prolific portrayal of ganger Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri on HBO’s legendary “The Sopranos” — was remembered fondly by family, friends and fellow cast members as he was laid to rest Wednesday in South Brooklyn.
Born Gennaro Anthony Sirico Jr., on July 29, 1942, he died at age 79 on Friday, his brother and priest Father Robert Sirico announced via social media. His funeral was broadcast via livestream Wednesday morning.
Robert celebrated his brother’s funeral mass at Basilica of Regia Pacis in Sirico’s native Brooklyn nabe, acknowledging cast members along with “loyal and exuberant fans” who came to pay their respects to the beloved actor.
“My friends, if Paulie Walnuts can steal heaven, so can you and I,” Robert told the solemn crowd of nearly 100 gathered inside the historic Bensonhurt church, which included Sirico’s former “Sopranos” co-stars Lorraine Bracco, Steven Van Zandt and Joseph Gannascoli.
Fellow character actors in attendance included Tony Daniels, aka the voice of Tony the Tiger, and Angel Salazar from “Scarface.”
Van Zandt told The Post Sirico was “one of my lifelong best friends — and one of a kind you know? One of a kind. I’m certainly going to miss him.”
The role of a tough guy came naturally to Sirico: He was arrested 28 times throughout his life, the first coming at age 7 for stealing change from a newsstand, the LA Times reported.
“After all the times I was pinched, I knew every judge in town,” said Sirico, who also played made men roles in 1990’s “Goodfellas” and the 1996 “Gotti” film. “I was a tough kid. I always had that itch in my britches to find out who I was. I tested my [courage] every night.”
During the funeral service homily, Robert reminisced of a time many years ago that his brother refused communion, admitting he hadn’t been to confession in a very long time.
However, a few weeks ago when Robert “sensed that the end was coming” while visiting Tony in Florida, the veteran actor finally went through with his confession, the priest told those in attendance. Sources told The Post Sirico was battling dementia under the care of his daughter, Joanne, in the Sunshine State at the time of his death.
While walking out behind the casket, one attendee collapsed into the seats and his friend, identified only as Dino, told The Post thahe was having a panic attack. He said “Tony was a friend from the Bay Ridge neighborhood who lived up the street from him.”
The late actor will be buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.
Actor-producer Artie Pasquale, who appeared as Burt Gervasi on “The Sopranos,” paid homage to his cherished old pal after the service.
“Tony was wonderful: He made everyone laugh and could be serious — but he always brought some life to the scene, or whatever situation” Pasquale told The Post. “We’re gonna miss Tony. He was just always dressed the best. Always had the best tie, but he was great and he’s really going to be missed.”
Even though he played a loyal soldier to James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano, in real life Sirico was never afraid to stand up to the boss — in his case, it was show creator David Chase.
“He was the only one who ever asked me to have a line changed. And I did it,” Chase told Variety. “Another character was talking about Paulie, and they said he was a bully. Tony didn’t like that … He asked me to take the word ‘bully’ out of there. And I did,” the creator added, saying Sirico was “part of one of the greatest casts of all time.”
Fellow Sopranos cast members too were quick to see how Sirico not only brought the role to life but what playing Paulie meant to him.
“He was never happier than playing Paulie Walnuts. Perfect casting. Rest easy Tony. You did good,” David Proval, who played Richie Aprile on “The Sopranos” posted to Instagram, calling Sirico “the real deal.”
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