New Jersey is home of some of the biggest Italian-American communities in the country. For this list we will be counting down the top ten Italian American Actors from New Jersey. For the following list all nominees must be of at least half Italian descent to qualify.
10. Anthony DeSando
There are a lot of famous Italian American actors out there but this one is straight out of Jersey City. Anthony DeSando, started out with small supporting roles in 1991 with “Out for Justice”, and “New Jack City”. in 1994 he starred in “Federal Hill" along side Italian American actors Nick Turturro, and the late Frank Vincent. One of DeSando’s most famous roles came when he was on “The Soprano’s” as the coked up mafia wannabe “Brendan Filone”. In 2008 he played the villain opposite to Artie Lange in the Jersey based men’s softball comedy “Beer League”. Anthony has appeared in the gay Italian comedy “Kiss Me Guido”, “Sex in the City”, “Cement”, “Fighting”, “Friends and Romans”, “Money Monster”, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”, and many others.
9. Vincent Curatola
Two time Screen Actor Guild nominee Vincent Curatola who played the cigarette loving Mob boss from New York in “The Soprano’s” is one out of the three people on this list from Englewood, NJ. Along with “The Soprano’s” Curatola is also well know for his outstanding role alongside Brad Pitt and New Jersey natives Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini in the hit gangster film “Killing Them Softly”. He appeared in The Italian American Nickelodeon TV movie “Nicky Deuce”, and the award winning short film “I am Woody”. Curatola is also known for his appearances on “Law and Order", “The Blacklist”, “The Good Wife”, “Blue Bloods”, “Monk” and many more.
8. Joe Piscopo
If there’s one guy who loves New Jersey more than any one on this list, its definitely Joe
Piscopo! The two time Emmy nominee most known for his amazing performances on “Saturday Night Live” especially his Frank Sinatra impersonation was born in Passaic, New Jersey. This guy loves New Jersey so much he almost ran for governor in 2017. One of Piscopo’s break out roles was the 1986 mob comedy “Wise Guys” directed by Newark, New Jersey native Brian DePalma, and costarred Neptune born actor Danny DeVito. One of his biggest roles came in the Micheal Keaton Gangster comedy “Johnny Dangerously”. In 1988 Piscopo and Treat William starred in the action comedy “Dead Heat”. He has made appearances on “Law & Order” “Batman: The Animated Series”, ‘The Pink Panther”, “Goof Troop”, “Star Trek”, and many others. He continues to head line and sell out stand up shows across the country till this day and currently hosts his own morning radio show.
7. Artie Lange
If you shave your body hair, wear speedo’s down the shore, and root for the Dallas Cowboys when you live 15 minutes away from Giants stadium, then you are not a true New Jersian according to Artie Lange. Artie was born in Livingston, NJ, and grew up in Union, NJ. His mother Judy Caprio was of Italian Descent. Artie’s big break came starting out on “Mad TV” in 1995. Artie who’s most well known for his time on Howard Stern’s radio show, produced, wrote, and starred in the New Jersey Italian American comedy “Beer League”. Artie has appeared in “Elf”, “Old School”, “Dirty Work”, “The Bachelor”, and tons of other films. Recently Artie has been the life of the new HBO series about the life ad struggle of stand up comedians called “Crashing”. Artie continues to sell out comedy show’s all across the country.
6. Joe Pantoliano
Primetime Emmy award winner “Joey Pantz” as some call him, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, and has appeared in some of the greatest movies of all time. His first big hit was the classic Ray Sharkey film “The Idolmaker” in 1980. He’s also appeared alongside Tom Cruise in “Risky Business” in 1983 and the classic family favorite “The Goonies” in 1985. Joe Pantoliano has been one of the greatest character actors of our time, in films such as “La Bamba”, “Empire of the Sun”, “Midnight Run”, “The Fugitive”, “Bad Boys”, “Memento”, “Bound”, “The Matrix”, “Daredevil” and many others. Pantoliano will always be remembered for plying one of the most hated characters in Television history as the mean and cold hearted mobster “Ralph Cifaretto” on HBO’s “The Soprano’s”.
5. Bobby Cannavale
One of the best actors to watch in Hollywood today is no doubt Bobby Cannavale. Born in Union City, with an Italian American father and Cuban American mother. Bobby steals the show in just about everything he is in. Bobby won his first Emmy in 2005 for Outstanding guest actor in a comedy series for his appearance on Will & Grace. Soon Bobby shot right to the top of A list stars after he won his second Emmy for His portrayal of the ruthless mobster Gyp Rosetti in HBO’s Atlantic City based show “Boardwalk Empire”.
He soon took on the lead as rock and roll producer Richie Finestra in the HBO series “Vinyl”. Through the years Cannavale has been nominated for dozens and dozens of awards not only on camera but on stage as well. Some of his biggest films include “Ant man”, “Parker”, ‘Blue Jasmine”, “The Other Guys”, “Chef”, ”Spy”, “Danny Collins”, “Annie”, and will be in the new Martin Scorsese movie “The Irishman”.
4. John Travolta
Yeah we all know John Travolta as the Oscar nominated disco dancing Brooklyn boy from the 1977 classic “Satruday Night Fever”, but don’t be mistaken! The two time Oscar nominee was born in Englewood, New Jersey. Travolta landed the role of Tony Manero after praised performances as Vinnie Barbarino in the show ‘Welcome Back Carter”. One of Travolta’s most famous roles came in 1979 as the singing greaser Danny Zucco in “Grease”. In 1994 Travolta starred in the Tarantino Masterpiece “Pulp Fiction”, which lead to his second Oscar nomination.
In 1996 he won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy for “Get Shorty”. Travolta is such a diverse actor that in 2008 he received a Golden Globe nomination for playing the a woman in “Hairspray”. Travolta has received dozens and dozens awards and nominations through out his career. Other performances include “Look who’s Talking”, “Old Dogs”, “Face/Off”, “Swordfish”, “Blow Out”, “Carrie”, and you will see him on screen soon in 2018 as John Gotti, in the new “Gotti” movie.
3. Danny DeVito
Who doesn’t love Danny DeVito? This little guy born in Neptune, New Jersey, has been one of the best comedic actors for over the past 40 years. His breakthrough performance came in the 1976 Oscar winner for best picture “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” alongside Neptune, native Jack Nicholson. In 1980 he won the Golden Globe for his performance in the classic comedy series “Taxi” alongside Tony Danza who eventually co starred with him in the 1981 comedy “Going Ape”. After Taxi, Danny DeVito soon started getting bigger and better parts through out his career. He soon stole the show with Billy Crystal in the 1987 comedy “Throw Mama From The Train”, and “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1988.
He produced and appeared in the best picture nominee of 1997 “L.A. Confidential”. One of his most unforgettable performances will always be his portrayal as the Penguin from “Batman Returns”. DeVito has recently been one of the most hysterical people on TV, with the insanely hysterical show “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”. Danny has starred in other films such as “Hoffa”, “Tin Men”, “Junior”, “Matilda”, “Mars Attacks”, “Deck the Halls”, “Get Shorty”, “The Rainmaker”, “Terms on Endearment”, and many others.
2. Joe Pesci
If the Newark born, Belleville High School graduate Joe Pesci wasn’t on this list he would
probably crack my head open. Being one of the greatest gangster character actors of all time, growing up in the Newark area, only helped Pesci’s on screen tough guy persona, even though he’s only half a foot taller than Danny DeVito. Joe Pesci got discovered by Martin Scorsese after watching the film “The Death Collector”. Marty loved Pesci’s performance so much that he casted him alongside Robert De Niro in 1980’s Raging bull, and Joe earned his first academy award nominee for best supporting actor. Joe went on to star in one of the funniest wise guy comedies of all time with comic legend Rodney Dangerfield in 1983’s “Easy Money”.
In 1988 he appeared in Michael Jackson’s moonwalker, and in 1989 he stole the show in “Lethal Weapon 2” as Leo Getz, who also appears in the third and fourth film of the series. The Role that made Joe Pesci a legend came in 1990 with his performance as Tommy DeVito, in the classic mob masterpiece “Goodfellas”, which earned him his first Oscar! You’ll always know its Christmas time when you see Joey getting hit with a paint can, or dressed like a chicken in “Home Alone”. In 1992 Pesci’s performance as Vincent Laguardia Gambini in “My Cousin Vinny” went down as one of the greatest comedic performances of all time. Not to mention he went all out in 1995 as Vegas gangster Nicky Santoro in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino”. Pesci has also starred in ‘The Super” “With Honors”, “Love Ranch”, “JFK”, “A Bronx Tale, “The Good Shepard”, and the soon to be released gangster masterpiece “The Irishman”.
1. James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini is number one on this list, and with tremendous reason. The “HBO” star was born in Englewood, New Jersey, grew up the traditional Italian American way and did not get into acting until his late twenties. His first big role came in 1993 in the gangster classic “True Romance” as Virgil. Critics were amazed with James’s performance and they knew it was only the beginning of a legendary career. He appeared in “Get Shorty”, “The Juror”, “Fallen”, “Night falls on Manhattan”, and others until he took on the role that made him a legend.
In 1997 James Gandolfini was casted as North New Jersey Mob boss Tony Soprano, in “HBO’s” “The Sopranos”. In the history of Television there hasn’t been a more in depth, complex, and authentic character than Tony Soprano, and it could not have been done without the brilliance and talent of James Gandolfini. He won the Golden Globe for his performance as Tony, along with dozens of other wins and nominations. Critics raved about his performances in “The Last Castle”, “The Mexican”, “Enough Said”, and “The Drop”. Other performances include “Killing Me Softly”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Down the Shore”, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “Surviving
Christmas”, “Angie”, “8mm”, and many others.
– Nicky Petito
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