Lip played mobster Carmine Lupertazzi in the hit American Mafia drama for five seasons. He had been suffering from declining health for several years.
Born Frank Anthony Vallelonga, he gained the nickname ‘Lip’ from his reputation for being incredibly talkative. He began his acting career aged 42 in the renowned Mafia film The Godfather, where he played a wedding guest.
He went on to portray numerous mobsters in films like Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco and Raging Bull, as well as the role of Bobby Murrows in American legal drama Law & Order.
Lip landed the part of Lupertazzi in The Sopranos in 2001.
The actor lived in Paramus, New Jersey, and died on 4 January 2013 at a hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Lip also co-wrote a cookbook in 2005, alongside Italian-American actors James Gandolfini (who plays Tony Soprano), Danny Aiello and Chazz Palmintieri. The book, entitled ‘Shut Up and Eat!’ was comprised of the actors’ favourite Italian recipes.
Before becoming an actor, Lip worked at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, where he rubbed shoulders with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Dean Martin and Tony Bennett.
It was here that he developed a love for acting and the tough guy demeanour which lead to his impressive career. He met director Francis Ford Coppola and casting director Louis DiGiamo at the club, and they gave him his first acting role in The Godfather.
He is survived by his two sons, Nick Vallelonga and Frank Vallelonga Jr. His wife Dolores died in 1999.