'Sopranos' Chef Busted for DWI, Drugs
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
By Erika Martinez, Rich Calder and Leela de Kretser
He plays a chef on "The Sopranos," but John Ventimiglia cooked himself a recipe for disaster when he was busted for drunken driving and cocaine possession Monday about a block away from his Brooklyn home.
The actor, who stars as New Jersey restaurant owner Artie Bucco on the hit HBO series, admitted to cops he drank four glasses of wine at a Manhattan eatery before getting behind the wheel of his 2004 Volkswagen Jetta and driving home.
Cops spotted him with his headlights off and weaving in and out of the oncoming traffic lane on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope at around 1 a.m., authorities said.
When officers pulled him over, Ventimiglia was unsteady on his feet, his eyes were bloodshot and he reeked of alcohol, according to the criminal complaint.
Prosecutors said the star had a blood-alcohol content of .12. The legal limit is .08.
The boozed-up actor also had a zip-lock bag with cocaine residue in his back pocket, cops said.
Ventimiglia, 42, was arraigned at Brooklyn Criminal Court yesterday on charges of DWI, reckless driving, operating outside the lane, operating without headlights and criminal possession of a controlled substance.
He was released on his own recognizance.
Sources said Ventimiglia later maintained he had a couple of glasses of wine at a Long Island City art gallery opening. The actor claimed he had found a parking spot near his Park Slope apartment and had turned off his lights as he tried to pull in.
He said he couldn't park the car properly, so he drove around the block to look for another spot with his headlights turned off. That's when, he claimed, police picked him up.
Ventimiglia's character has been on a downward spiral from mild-mannered restaurateur who is best buddies with mob boss Tony Soprano to resentful loser.
After his restaurant was blown up at the end of the first season, Bucco appeared to be stuck in an ongoing mid-life crisis, prompted by a crush on the sexy Adriana La Cerva, one-time fiancée of mob captain Christopher Moltisanti, before she was rubbed out last season.
But last week, Ventimiglia really got a chance to flex his acting muscles in a critically acclaimed episode where Bucco beats up the Soprano wiseguy responsible for a credit-card scam at his flagging restaurant.
The episode ended with Bucco returning to his kitchen to cook up a rabbit he had shot in a rage in his back yard.
Yesterday, the "Sopranos" co-star arrived at his Park Slope home after a night in the slammer, looking unshaven and with two unidentified acquaintances.
The actor, wearing blue jeans and a black jacket, declined to comment to The Post as he quickly rushed to get inside his apartment.
His lawyer, Benjamin Petrofsky, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Ventimiglia, who has appeared on Broadway, as well on numerous television shows during his nearly 20-year career, became the face of a range of cookbooks, pasta sauces and other Italian food delights aggressively marketed by HBO after "The Sopranos" launch.
Ventimiglia is the latest of a slew of the mobster serial's stars to find himself on the wrong side of the law.
Lillo Brancato Jr., who played Matt Bevilaqua, was charged with murder after he and an accomplice gunned down a cop after he interrupted them robbing a home for drugs.
Tony Sirico, who plays Paulie Walnuts, was arrested 28 times before becoming an actor.
Robert Iler, who plays Anthony Soprano Jr., pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny in April 2002 after cops arrested him and three other teens for stealing $40 from two victims on a Manhattan street.
Vincent Pastore, who played Sal "Big Pussy" Bompensiero in the show, pleaded guilty to punching his former girlfriend last April and was sentenced to 70 hours of community service.