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John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, a tough-guy actor on The Sopranos who owned a popular New York restaurant in Little Italy frequented by his celebrity pals, has died. He was 69.
Ciarcia, who decades ago served as Tony Danza’s boxing manager and was the best man at Danny DeVito’s wedding to Rhea Perlman in 1982, died Nov. 21 at NYU Langone Medical Center following a brief illness, his family announced.
The Manhattan native, who grew up on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, played mobster Albie Cianfione, the consigliere to Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent), on HBO’s The Sopranos. He also appeared in such films as Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), the DeVito-directed movies Hoffa (1992) and Death to Smoochy (2002) and A Brooklyn State of Mind (1998), which featured Danza.
Ciarcia’s death was “a shock, I’m dying over it,” Danza told The New York Post. “He saw me at Gleason’s [boxing gym] and said, ‘You’ll put asses in the seats.’ That kicked off a 40-year mentorship and brotherhood.”
Ciarcia also was a regular on the satellite radio program The Wiseguy Show, hosted by actor Vincent Pastore, best known as Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero on The Sopranos.
His restaurant, Cha Cha’s In Bocca Al Lupo Cafe, was a popular gathering place for his showbiz friends Danza, DeVito, Scorsese, Pastore, Robert De Niro and Danny Aiello. The restaurateur, known as “the mayor of Little Italy” and “the unofficial mayor of Mulberry Street,” also once owned a bar in Coney Island.
Survivors include his wife, singer Karen King.
Updated Dec. 2 at 10:05 am to correct Ciarcia’s age.
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