The actor who plays Dickie Moltisanti in the prequel movie “The Many Saints of Newark” visits the old stomping ground of Richie (the Boot) Boiardo, the mid-century mafioso who loosely inspired the series.
By Naomi FrySeptember 18, 2021
There are arguably few routes less glamorous than that which snakes westward from the Lincoln Tunnel to the New Jersey Turnpike and on to Newark. (Carbon-monoxide vibes!) Unless you’re a fan of “The Sopranos,” in which case that gray path takes on a mythic quality. “We should be playing the song,” the actor Alessandro Nivola said on a recent morning, as his car sped past the industrial chimneys of North Jersey, just as Tony Soprano’s does in the opening credits of the show. Nivola began to sing the first bars of the theme—a morning, a gun—unshowily but with conviction.
Nivola, who is forty-nine, was wearing jeans and a gray button-down, and a heavy silver I.D. bracelet. Next month, he will star in the movie “The Many Saints of Newark,” a “Sopranos” prequel, co-written by the show’s creator, David Chase, and directed by Alan Taylor. In the crime drama, which is set against the backdrop of the 1967 Newark race riots, Nivola plays Dickie Moltisanti, father to Christopher (a baby in the movie), and mentor to the young Tony (played by Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini, who starred in the series as the psychologically tortured Mafia boss). Although Nivola is part Italian, his background is not Moltisanti-esque. “My grandfather, who was a sculptor, was originally from Sardinia, and he moved to New York in the forties,” Nivola said. “Him and my grandmother lived a kind of bohemian existence in Greenwich Village, which is where my dad was born, and it wasn’t exactly the mean streets of the outer boroughs.” Nivola’s father tried to hide his heritage: “In boarding school, he changed his name from Pietro to Pete.” He went on, “But, by the time I was born, he’d rediscovered his Italianness, and I was saddled with the most Italian name in history.”Published in the print edition of the September 27, 2021, issue, with the headline “Baby Soprano.”
Naomi Fry is a staff writer at The New Yorker.