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Sometimes you tell a lie so long... you don't know when to stop. You don't know when it's safe.
― Vito Spatafore to Jim Witowski[src]

Vito with Jim Witowski.


Vito posing for a Thin Club Advertisement.

Vito Spatafore Sr., played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was a capo in the Soprano Crime Family and Tony Soprano's best earner. He was married to Marie Spatafore with two children, Francesca and Vito, Jr. Vito was a closeted homosexual, who had seemingly been engaging in sexual acts with other men for years. This was revealed in the show's fifth season, and became one of the more prominent subplots in the sixth season.


Assault on his brother[]

In the season 3 episode "Another Toothpick", Vito's brother, Bryan Spatafore, is violently beaten with a golf club by a young hot-head known as Salvatore "Mustang Sally" Intile and put into a coma. Vito is vindictive and demands someone render Sal's comeuppance. Tony Soprano enlists in the help of Bobby Baccalieri's father, Bobby Baccalieri, Sr., to perform the hit on Mustang Sally.


Vito executes Jackie Aprile, Jr.

Whacking Jackie Aprile, Jr.[]

In 2001, in the season 3 finale episode "Army of One", after Jackie Aprile, Jr. had gone into hiding after he and his friends hit Ralph Cifaretto's card game, tragically ending with Jackie, Jr. shooting and killing Ralph's dealer, Sunshine, in a panic. Tony pressured Cifaretto into ordering Jackie's death; Vito performs his first on-screen murder by shooting Jackie, Jr. in the back of the head. Although the cover story for Jackie Jr.'s death was being "killed by African-American drug dealers", his sister doesn't buy the story, given the fact they grew up in the Mafia world and stating, "He was killed by some fat fuck in see-through socks. Take your pick. They all look alike."

Rise to capo[]

In 2003, in the Season 4 episode "Whoever Did This", Tony Soprano brutally strangles and beats Ralph Cifaretto to death, believing Ralph is responsible for the death of their prized racehorse Pie-O-My. Vito is subsequently promoted to capo of the Aprile Crew, as he was second-in-command.

Secret revealed[]

In 2004, in the Season 5 episode "Unidentified Black Males", it is disclosed to viewers Vito is in fact homosexual after he is seen performing fellatio on a security guard early one morning at the Esplanade construction site by Meadow's boyfriend, Finn De Trolio. Vito intimidates Finn into silence, first by offering him baseball tickets, but then conveying the impression that if Finn lets the word slip that the consequences could result in his own demise.

Weight loss[]

By the Season 6 premiere "Members Only" in 2006, Vito had lost over 160 pounds and appeared in a weight loss commercial. Tony was shot by Uncle Junior in the same episode, and was in a coma for the next two episodes. While Tony's recovery seemed uncertain, Vito hinted at the idea that he should take over as boss. At the time, Silvio Dante was acting boss, but ended up suffering an asthma attack from the stress. Vito informed Soprano Family capo Larry Boy Barese that he was the best candidate for boss since he was the capo of the highest-earning crew in the family. While Tony was comatose, Vito also provided information to Paulie about the location of $1 million in drug money hidden by Colombian drug dealers. Paulie and an associate stole the money, although they were nearly killed by two Colombians guarding the stash. Paulie was seriously injured during the theft when one of the dealers kicked him in the groin, causing serious medical problems. Paulie demanded a higher cut because of his injury. Paulie and Vito also became angry when Silvio demanded a higher percentage of the cut go to Carmela in case Tony did not recover. Tony finally awoke from his coma, which made everyone ecstatic—except Vito who was hoping to step in and take Tony's place. His weight problems and attempts to lose weight resemble the health problems which were suffered by Colombo Crime Family capo Gerald Clemenza.


Vito at the gay bar.


Vito? What the fuck?!
Sal Iaccuzzo upon spotting Vito in a gay bar[src]

In the episode "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request", during the wedding of Johnny Sack's daughter, Allegra, Vito claimed he wasn't feeling well. He and his family left the wedding. But back at home, Vito informed his wife he was going to "make some collections". She found it odd that he would be making collections so late at night. Later, that evening while making a collection at a gay bar, two Lupertazzi Family associates, one named Sal Iaccuzzo, saw Vito dancing provocatively with a gay man. The Iaccuzzo character was based on real-life Gambino Crime Family capo Matthew Lanniello, who was known to extort and own several nightclubs in New York City that catered to homosexual clientele. Vito tried to play it off as a joke, although the two men were not fooled. Vito, fearing the consequences of his outing, went home to collect money hidden around his house before going on the run. For sentimental reasons he also takes a picture of him and Marie from when they were younger.

Time in hiding[]

Petrified of the consequences if his Bisexuality were made public, Vito went into hiding. He stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in New Hampshire and tried to pursue a new life away from the Mafia. Under the alias "Vince," he took an interest in antiques and claimed to be writing a book on Italian boxers. He contacted his family only once during a brief phone call. He also began drinking heavily.

He started a relationship with Jim Witowski (aka 'Johnny Cakes'), a short-order cook who worked at the restaurant where Vito regularly stopped for breakfast. Vito was impressed when he found out Jim was a volunteer fireman. When Jim first tried to kiss him, Vito pushed him away, called him a fag, and the two scuffled briefly. Several days later, Vito went back to the restaurant and apologized, saying, "Sometimes you tell a lie so long, you don't know when to stop." The two men reconciled. They drove on their motorcycles to a secluded spot by a nearby lake, where they picnicked and had sex. Vito moved in with Jim shortly thereafter.

Vito continued to spend time with Jim, but Jim eventually saw through his story about being a writer. Vito confessed to some of his past but continued to lie, claiming he was a divorced construction worker. Jim arranged for Vito to work as a handyman, but Vito soon tired of the tedium of a working life. Vito's drinking worsened. Finally, Vito decided to return to his former life in New Jersey. He cooked a dinner for Jim and left the next morning while Jim slept.

Return to New Jersey[]

Vito drank while driving back to New Jersey, and crashed his car into a parked vehicle. When he failed to convince the owner to keep the accident from the police, Vito shot and killed the man. Vito returned home and remained conflicted about whether or not to reinitiate contact with his old mafia family.

Vito eventually approached Tony Soprano at a mall, while Vito's brother, Bryan, kept watch. Vito claimed that his homosexual behavior had been caused by medication. Wanting to "buy himself back" into the business, he offered Tony $200,000 and said he would run the family's Atlantic City prostitution and drug businesses. Tony was tempted by the offer, but realized this would bring him into open war with the Lupertazzis. Lupertazzi crime family boss Phil Leotardo, a virulent homophobe, demanded Vito's death, so Tony quietly arranged for Carlo Gervasi to make a hit on Vito. Meanwhile, Vito reunited with his family. He explained his absence to his children by claiming that he was an undercover CIA agent hiding out in Afghanistan, and warned them not to tell anybody. He phoned Jim at his motel room one night attempting to apologize and rebuffs him. He later ran into Terry Doria, whom he agreed to loan $20,000 for child support.

That night, Vito returned to his motel room and was ambushed by Phil Leotardo and two of his soldiers, Gerry Torciano and Dominic Gamiello. Torciano and Gamiello duct-taped Vito's mouth shut and beat him to death while Phil Leotardo watched. It was later revealed that Vito was found with a pool cue stick in his rectum, a message that he was killed because of his homosexuality.


Phil's unsanctioned murder of Vito proved to be a serious point of contention in his working relationship with Tony. The relationship was further strained when Phil correctly suspected the New Jersey mob in the disappearance of Gamiello, who had been stabbed to death by Carlo Gervasi with the assistance of Silvio after making repeated wisecracks, in the wake of Vito's death, about the sexual orientation of New Jersey mobsters.

Phil Leotardo later told Vito's wife, Marie, that her husband was probably killed by two homosexual transients Vito had picked up at a bar. He told Marie that he loved Vito "like a brother-in-law," and suggested that Vito's death was probably for the best, as a bisexual man would have made a poor role model for the children. However, a newspaper reported Vito was killed by mobsters after requesting to simply live openly as bisexual. Vito's children read the story, destroying the illusion of their father being a CIA agent.

A year later Vito's son, Vito Jr. began to go through a rebellious phase in reaction to his father's murder and cruelty from his peers in light of his father's sexual orientation, lashed out by performing various acts of vandalism and embracing the Juggalo subculture (fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse), as they were only ones who did not judge what happened. His mother, Marie, asked Tony Soprano for money so she could relocate her family to Maine, where no one would know them or what happened to Vito. Tony asked Phil Leotardo to also intervene, because of his involvement in Vito's death. Both paid separate visits to Vito Jr. and told him to start acting more like an adult, that it was time to grow up and to make his mother and sister proud, since after his father's death, Vito Junior was now the man of the house. However, the bullying at school continued, and Vito Jr. lashed out at some bullies by defecating in the showers, which disgusted the bullies and also got Vito Jr. in trouble with the headmaster.

Tony decided to help Marie Spatafore move to Maine, but gambled away the money he had intended to give her to help her make the down payment on a house. Tony looked at a cheaper option, and recommended to Marie his way, saying Vito Junior should go to a "tough love" camp run by a militia in Idaho, and that Tony would cover all costs. Vito Junior was last seen in the middle of the night, where he was rousted from bed by a couple of men, one who demanded he get dressed while the other quickly grabbed a Dopp kit and other light luggage Marie had prepared for this anticipated activity. Vito Junior protested this and started kicking and screaming, to which the two men grabbed him, saying they will do it the hard way instead. As they brought him outside, this was witnessed by Marie, and Vito Jr. begged his mom for help (thinking this may be a kidnapping). Marie and Francesca watched in despair, but knew it was all for the best and simply remarked to her son that she loved him as he was headed for a long road trip to Idaho.

Vito's bisexuality may have been a contributing factor in Phil Leotardo declaring war on the Soprano Family, as Leotardo implies that others do not respect him any longer due to Vito's "disgrace."

Murders committed by Vito Spatafore[]

  • Jackie Aprile, Jr.: Shot in the back of the head in retaliation for murdering Sunshine, shooting at Christopher Moltisanti and Albert Barese, and wounding Furio Giunta. (January 23 2001)
  • Unnamed Male Car Accident Civilian: An unnamed car accident civilian who was shot in the back of the head for intending to call the police and refusing a bribe to keep silent after a drunken Vito crashed his automobile into the man's parked car. His dead body landed in the snow, just as Jackie's, both dying exactly in the same way. (November 2006)


Although Vito Spatafore wasn't introduced on The Sopranos until the Season 2 episode "The Happy Wanderer" as a nephew to fellow mobster Richie Aprile and later a cousin to Adriana La Cerva and Jackie Aprile, Jr, the actor who plays his role, Joseph R. Gannascoli, appears in the Season 1 episode, "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti" as pastry shop patron named "Gino". Vito is inducted into the Aprile crew upon Richie's release from prison and quickly rises through the ranks to Capo after the deaths of capos Richie Aprile, Gigi Cestone and Ralph Cifaretto.

Vito's character is partly based on Vito Arena, a bisexual mob associate in the Gambino crime family, as well as actual DeCavalcante member, and at the time new acting DeCavalcante boss, Johnny Boy D’Amato who was tortured and executed for being gay, with capos in the family being quoted as taking the perspective, “Nobody’s gonna respect us if we have a fag for a boss”. There was a big taboo flagrantly broken in the D’Amato assassination [Note: When an underboss or above was murdered it was general practice to refer to the hit as an assassination] as well as it wasn’t identified in advance let alone sanctioned by The Association of the heads of the other Five Families. There was some anger not so much that he was a great earner with the best connections in New York Organized Crime being lost but that the ultimate taboo of being gay was being used to test the higher ups in every family by the soldieri street level good fella who wanted more freedom in how they ran what they viewed as their own little fief-like areas of interest.

D’Amato’s rise through the ranks being a true virtuoso in particular in the areas of the building trades unions and construction graft and corruption (at one time under D’Amato’s crew they had over 90% of the cement sold in all of north Jersey with the DeCavalcantes getting a cut) very similar to Vito’s character bio on the show. And it’s a non-disputed quote that it was the story of what happened to D’Amato hitting the front page of newspapers during the sensationalized murder trial which the Soprano writing staff confirmed was the starting line for Vito’s character arc beginning.


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