Arthur "Artie" Bucco, Jr., played by John Ventimiglia, is a character on the HBO television series The Sopranos. He is a restaurateur and childhood friend of Tony Soprano. Artie appears throughout the series, from the first episode to the penultimate episode. He is generally depicted as both an insecure fool who lacks awareness of his own flaws, and a sucker who never learns from his mistakes. His exploits tend to fail in unpredictably disastrous ways (similar to Christopher Moltisanti), lending light comic relief to many of the episodes in which he appears.
Charmaine Bucco is Artie's wife and the mother of his children: Chiara Bucco, Melissa Bucco and Arthur "Art" Bucco III.
Artie is a longtime childhood friend of Tony Soprano; they went to elementary and high school together. He works as the co-owner and head chef of Nuovo Vesuvio, a local, upscale, Italian restaurant. He sometimes wishes he could be involved in Tony's seemingly glamorous criminal activities, but lacks the "image" and know-how. His wife, in turn, is frequently concerned about his attraction to (Tony's) "the business," often warning him about his occasional attempts at involvement, or even when he hints that he may wish to get involved. David Chase has stated that Artie's is based on a man named Daniel Somers—Chase's NYU roommate—who was known to be a self-loathing man; and like Artie, enjoyed basking and wallowing in self-pity. In spite of these flaws, however, Artie is depicted as generally a rather pleasant person who gets along with others – so much so that he was able to convince the ruthless Tony to spare the life of a pedophile soccer coach.
Despite Artie and Tony's close friendship, their relationship has seen several low-points. At the end of Season One, Artie learns from Tony's mother, Livia, that Tony was responsible for burning down his original restaurant, Vesuvio. Tony's Uncle Junior had been planning to stage a hit at Vesuvio on "Little Pussy" Malanga (not to be confused with Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero) and, despite Tony's repeated requests, refused to move the hit to some other venue because the target felt comfortable there. Tony, knowing that the restaurant's patrons would be permanently chased away if a hit occurred there, devised arson as the win-win solution to this problem (i.e., no hit at Vesuvio, and Artie could rebuild it with the pay-out from his insurance policy). Artie builds a bigger and even more prosperous restaurant, the Nuovo Vesuvio. However, Artie had a strong emotional attachment to the old restaurant (which he inherited from his father), and goes on an angry rampage when he finds out that his best friend destroyed it (confronting Tony with a hunting rifle in the parking lot of Satriale's). Eventually, Artie believes Tony's repeated denials of having been the arsonist (only technically true, since Silvio actually firebombed the place...on Tony's orders), and he destroys his rifle before driving off erratically. There is a brief tension between the two, but by the end of the Season One finale, they have made up. Artie even keeps his kitchen open past closing time to prepare a special meal for the Sopranos when they seek refuge at Nuovo Vesuvio during a fierce thunderstorm. Tensions over Tony's arson briefly resurface after the death of Tony's mother in Season Three. At a gathering at the Soprano household after Livia's funeral, Artie, who was catering the affair, turns over Tony's garbage cans and tells Tony that he guesses that their "secret" died with Livia.
In Season Four, Artie approaches Ralph Cifaretto for a $50,000 loan. This money would let him act as shylock to Jean-Philippe, the brother of the new French hostess at Vesuvio, who needed $50,000 short-term to fund a business venture. Ralph denies Artie's request on the grounds that if Artie couldn't pay him back, he wouldn't be able to hurt Artie in revenge because of his close relationship with Tony. Tony finds out, and is hurt that Artie didn't come to him first for the loan. Tony agrees to lend Artie the money on relatively generous terms (1.5% interest) and Artie, in turn, lends the money to the Frenchman on more strict terms (12.5% interest). Jean-Philippe defaults (as he was scamming Artie the whole time), and Artie, seeking to force payment, visits him to rough him up—only to get beaten up himself. Despondent and unable to repay Tony's loan, Artie attempts suicide by overdosing on pills and alcohol, calling Tony before he loses consciousness, sobbing, "I love you and I'm sorry I let you down." Tony had been in a fragile emotional state to begin with because he had just learned that his ex-comáre, Gloria Trillo, had committed suicide—which he blamed himself for. Tony calls 911 but is angry when he shows up at the hospital because of Artie's lack of consideration for those around him in attempting suicide, asking him, "Suppose I come over to your house and find you dead? How am I supposed to feel?" Tony tells Artie that he'll assume the Frenchman's debt (including the interest), and collect it himself, if Artie agrees to cancel Tony's $6,000 tab at the restaurant. Artie agrees, but suggests that Tony knew how the whole thing would play out from the beginning (Artie would get suckered and fail; Tony would benefit twice by taking collecting on Jean-Philippe's debt, and get his restaurant tab erased). Tony becomes irately indignant over this suggestion and storms out, telling Artie not to tell anyone about either their arrangement or the suicide attempt. The two don't speak to each other for the rest of Season Four, and into Season Five; although, Tony still frequents Vesuvio during this timeframe.
In the third episode of Season Five, Tony learns that Artie has been living in a Motel 6 since his wife (Charmaine Bucco) got the house in their separation. Tony offers to let Artie stay in his mother's old house, where Tony has been living since his separation from Carmela. Artie accepts, and the old friends reconcile.
By Season Six, Artie and Charmaine have reconciled. There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction amongst Nuovo Vesuvio's diners, culminating in the episode "Luxury Lounge". Artie has hired another young hostess that he lusts after—Martina, an undocumented Albanian immigrant that he has been helping through the U.S. government's immigration process. Soprano crew associate Benny Fazio is a regular fixture at the restaurant's bar, flirting with Martina (to Artie's chagrin, ostensibly because Benny has a wife who is expecting their first baby soon). The restaurant is losing many customers to a new rival restaurant (Da Giovanni's). Also, Artie spends increasingly less time cooking the food, delegating his Italian family recipes to non-Italian, undocumented immigrant, line cooks. Charmaine worries that Artie's constant presence on the floor, chatting to customers, is also hurting business. Carmela sums up the restaurant's problems as a depressing atmosphere, stale menu, and aging decor. Tony suggests to Artie that promotional discount offers might help; Artie responds with hostility to any advice given. He accuses Tony of disloyalty for dining at Da Giovanni's, and again references his involvement in the arson of the first Vesuvio. The restaurant's finances worsen when American Express won't let its customers use its cards there, because several account numbers have already been stolen there and fraudulently misused to run-up charges elsewhere. Artie calls a staff meeting to ask the perpetrator to come forward, or to at least halt his/her activities. However, his insecurities once again get the better of him, and he becomes irate and accuses one, then all, of the employees of stealing from him. The coat-check girl, Sandy, tells Artie after the meeting that she has noticed immigrant Martina wearing new, $600 shoes. Artie confronts Martina and she instantly breaks, tearfully admitting to stealing, then passing, the charge card numbers to Benny; but, she instantly accuses Artie of changing his attitude toward her (from helping, to harassing) once he realized that she was sexually attracted to Benny, not him. Artie is enraged and storms to Benny's house in the middle of the night. The undersized Benny tries to deny his involvement, but Artie is undeterred. Artie starts a brawl, and surprisingly, beats Benny unconscious on his own front porch. He seems particularly angry that Benny saw him as an easy target, because he is not a wiseguy.
Tony invites Artie and his wife out on his boat, then lectures Artie about his behavior. He tells him Benny is baying for blood. Artie again refuses to accept advice, bemoaning the lack of fruit for his years of labor. Tony insists that Benny dine with his family at Vesuvio to celebrate his parents' anniversary—not the ultra-popular Da Giovanni's, as Benny had planned to. The occasion falls at the same time as the restaurant's first "twofers night" — an occasion that disgusts Artie (who has always regarded his restaurant as being above such promotions). Artie makes a veiled reference to Benny's relationship with Martina while chatting-up the family at their table; this prompts a humiliated Benny to storm into Vesuvio's kitchen, and plunge Artie's right hand into a scalding pot of tomato sauce. Tony visits Vesuvio with his wife and mother-in-law, and privately suggests that Artie go see Dr. Melfi for help, as he has been "going about his life in pity for himself". Artie insults Tony by telling him to go to Giovanni's, instead (rhetorically questioning whether they would serve him customized food, bland enough for his damaged pancreas, as Artie did him after his shooting). Tony responds by telling Artie a hard truth: no one likes his excessive chatter on the restaurant floor, and he should spend more time in the kitchen.
In 2007, the indication is that Artie has dealt with his personal issues, and worked to restore his business—Nuovo Vesuvio even plays host to then-New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini (in a cameo appearance). Artie had also catered Christopher Moltisanti's belated bachelor party at Nuovo Vesuvio, and without coming into confrontation with Benny.
Artie's father (also Arthur Bucco) was a chef and was married to Dorothy "Dot" D'Auria Bucco; they were both born in Newark, New Jersey. His paternal grandparents, Angelo Bucco and Concetta Palagonia Bucco, emigrated from Baiano, Avellino, Italy in 1913 and opened the family's first restaurant in 1926. This was Bucco's Vesuvio in the Italian First Ward of Newark, New Jersey. The second Bucco's Vesuvio opened in Bloomfield, New Jersey in the early 1950s. Artie's parents helped finance his attendance at the Cooks Culinary Academy in London, England. Soon after he graduated, his parents retired to New Brunswick, New Jersey, and Artie and Charmaine took over Vesuvio as equal partners.