Rao’s legend and “Sopranos” star Frank Pellegrino Sr. died on Tuesday aged 72 following a cancer battle.
The famed Harlem restaurateur’s close friend Bo Dietl told Page Six, “We lost a part of New York today when we lost Frankie. There’s nobody like him, he’s an icon.”
Dietl, a former NYPD detective and now New York City mayoral candidate said Pellegrino passed away just before 2p.m. at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital with his family at his side.
Dietl continued, “Rao’s may be over 100 years old, but the person who made Rao’s what it is, was Frankie. It is a place that is so unique because of him and it not going to be the same without him. He was big-hearted and generous and always took care of people. What a shining star and a big personality, I will miss singing along with him every Thursday night.”
Pellegrino was diagnosed with cancer last year, and had been recuperating at his homes in the city and Southampton between treatments. But he still made regular appearances at his famed Harlem red sauce joint to greet his regulars.
“He never complained once, he was always upbeat. I am going to miss my best friend, he was one of the bravest guys I ever met,” Dietl added.
Many Rao’s regulars were expected to gather at the restaurant to pay tribute to Frankie on Tuesday night.
Diners over the years have included Martin Scorsese — who cast Pellegrino in “GoodFellas,” Leo DiCaprio (who filmed a scene for “Wolf of Wall Street” with Dietl in the restaurant), Keith Richards, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Fallon and Woody Allen. Pellegrino Sr went on to play a FBI bureau chief on “The Sopranos.”
He leaves behind a son Frankie Jr, who runs Rao’s outposts in LA and Las Vegas, a daughter, and wife Josephine.