Family hit out at claim that 'lavish meal' led to Gandolfini's death
THE family of James Gandolfini have angrily denied claims that his death from a heart attack was brought on by a lavish last supper in Rome.
Tabloid newspapers in the US claimed yesterday that the 51-year-old star of 'The Sopranos' had died just hours after eating a decadent meal consisting of foie gras and fried prawns, accompanied by pina colada cocktails with additional rum shots.
The reports claimed that the American actor had "guzzled at least eight drinks" during his final meal, at an outdoor restaurant attached to the Boscolo Exedra Hotel, where he was staying.
That was a fabrication, said Michael Kobold, a friend of the family who knew Gandolfini for more than a decade and regarded him as a big brother.
"I knew James well and I can tell you, he hates foie gras," Mr Kobold said.
"And in the heat of summer, it is the last thing you would choose."
Francesca Caracciolo, the manager of the hotel, also denied the reports that the actor had gorged himself on fried food and a large quantity of alcohol.
Mr Kobold dismissed the claims that Gandolfini had been drinking pina coladas laced with extra shots of rum on his last night alive.
"It's not his drink of choice and he certainly doesn't drink pina coladas in 40C heat. It's nonsense."
A check showed that neither foie gras nor pina coladas were on the menu at the restaurant where Gandolfini dined with Michael, his 13-year-old son.
Mr Kobold, a businessman who runs a company that makes watches for expeditions, said a post-mortem examination had shown that Gandolfini died of a heart attack.
"There was nothing out of the ordinary. It was a heart attack. It was a natural cause," he said.
"There was no foul play. There was no substance abuse."
Asked if the actor, acclaimed for his role as the mafia boss Tony Soprano, had any heart problems, he said: "No, Jim was happy. He was healthy, he was doing really fine."
In neighbourhoods where 'The Sopranos' was shot, Gandolfini was recalled yesterday with mixed emotions: a global star who made their communities famous, but sometimes at the expense of their reputations.
Vito Mazza, who was busily preparing for an Italian-American festival in Elizabeth this weekend, said the actor had local credibility.
"He was as Jersey as it gets, through and through," he said.
The 'Sopranos' star was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University. His character has become an indelible part of the state's global image, as much a part of New Jersey culture as tolled highways, smokestacks and crooked politicians.
Pete Canu, a limousine fleet owner who was sipping coffee in an Elizabeth butcher shop Thursday morning, said Tony Soprano was very realistic.
"He had frailties and failings; he was human, aside from all that gangster crap," Mr Canu said. "A lot of people were offended by it.
"They say it makes it look like all Italian-Americans are mobsters, but people know we're not. We're just hardworking people who get up every day and do our jobs and provide for our families. It was just a TV show."
At Satin Dolls, the real-life Lodi strip club that served as the fictional Bada Bing club in the show, employees put a framed photo of Gandolfini where he frequently sat, calling it "the boss's seat".
"It's like we lost a member of the family," spokesman Bill Pepe said. "Everybody is shocked." (© Daily Telegraph, London)