"Cooking really is my first passion and love."
Credit: Jeff Schear / Stringer/Getty Images

Life can take some unexpected turns: Just ask Joseph R. Gannascoli. The Brooklyn native had a career as a chef before moving to Los Angeles where he was lucky enough to land the role of Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos—a character he'll forever be remembered for. But don't let me tell you. Literally, just ask him. He'll throw a private dinner at your house—cooking for you and your guests—and he'll answer all of your Sopranos-related questions along the way.

"Cooking really is my first passion and love. I worked in New Orleans for a couple years at Commander's Palace. I cooked in L.A. when I was pursuing acting. I started in Manhattan, had restaurants in Brooklyn," he told me. But then he added a Sopranos-like twist to his own life story: "I got into a little trouble in restaurants with gambling, so that's when I sold the restaurant and moved to L.A." If that isn't a teaser for some quality dinner conversation, I don't know what is.

Gannascoli has been offering these dinner nights for a couple of years and has probably done about 20 so far. But up until now, things had been under the radar: just word of mouth. The nights picked up steam when people began posting photos to a large New York area Facebook group. Then, last Wednesday, Page Six broke the story and suddenly requests are rolling in. "I have two this week actually," he says, "which is great."

Joseph Gannascoli Dinner
Credit: Chef Jason Zukas

The events are intended for groups of at least 16 to as many as 50 people with Gannascoli entertaining for a full 10 hours—"because the sauce has got to cook," he explains—though he also mentions he'll probably drop out to your backyard for a cigar break at some point. As for the meal, things start with an antipasto before moving on to his two signature sauces: a clam sauce and a red sauce. While he's there, he answers questions, tells stories, tosses in some Sopranos trivia, takes photos, and signs autographs. Plus, at the end, he gives "a little surprise to the guys in the group." Hopefully that doesn't mean they get whacked. Though he did joke, "If any of the people there have a problem collecting money, I can put them in touch with a guy, too." Talk about a perk!

The whole experience is $125 a head, plus food expenses, but Gannascoli handles all the shopping, handpicking the ingredients himself. The chef-turned-actor-turned-chef currently lives with his family in Long Island, so though he's willing to travel anywhere, places farther flung than the greater New York area will cost a bit more. If you're interested, he suggests his Twitter account is the best way to get in touch.

Meanwhile, Gannascoli still acts (he just did a movie)—and has a wide range of other ventures—but these dinner parties are great way to create a connection between his love of cooking and his unforgettable experience working on one of the most beloved shows ever aired. "As far as The Sopranos, if I never did anything again acting-wise, I would be okay with that," he tells me. "I made my mark on the greatest show ever."