Ralph "Ralphie" Cifaretto, played by Joe Pantoliano, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Reaching the rank of Caporegime of the Aprile Crew in the DiMeo crime family, under the regime of Tony Soprano and Corrado "Junior" Soprano, Cifaretto was quite intelligent and excellent at making money; however, Ralph had many negative attributes which often raised the ire of virtually everyone he associated with. Ralph was cunning, utterly remorseless, sadistic, callous, nefarious and above all highly unpredictable and violently unstable. Ralph was in many ways the most diabolical and sociopathic member of the entire Soprano crew.
Ralph Cifaretto was a member of the DiMeo crime family. He grew up in New Jersey along with other mobster associates Tony Soprano, Silvio Dante, and Jackie Aprile, Sr. He didn't move up in the ranks of the family nearly as fast as his peers; he credits this to not going along with the robbing of Feech La Mana's card game, which got Tony, Silvio, and Jackie, Sr. made and respected. Ralph spent a long period of time loafing around and taking a very long vacation in Miami, Florida, Ralph stated he also indulged in consuming large amounts of cocaine while there. He returned to New Jersey in 2000, following the disappearance of Aprile Crew capo Richie Aprile. As he was a soldier at the time, he unofficially tried to take over the Aprile Crew as captain despite Tony's reluctance to make him captain and often referred to it as "his crew".
Tony viewed Ralph as obnoxious, disrespectful, and insubordinate, which is why he passed Ralph over for promotion and gave it to the less qualified Gigi Cestone. Although Ralph was the highest earning member of the crew, Tony could not bear to promote him. At the time, Ralph had developed an obsession with the 2000 film Gladiator. He would incessantly quote the film and act out various often violent and dangerous scenes from the film, which became very annoying to others around him. Ralph was always totally oblivious to others' feelings and would make comments at the worst possible times. In the episode Another Toothpick, Vito Spatafore's brother Bryan is violently beaten and put into a coma. Ralph remarks "look at the bright side, he wasn't that smart to begin with." He also undermines the leadership of the Aprile Family capo Cestone, who chooses the elderly Bobby Baccala, Sr. to whack Bryan's assailant, saying "You send in an old man; what's he gonna do? Gum the guy to death?"
One night at the Bada Bing, he entered the V.I.P. lounge, loudly quoting and acting out his favorite movie Gladiator. After making inappropriate comments, he picks up a chain and proceeds to swing it at Georgie, one of the club's bouncers, in an attempt to emulate a battle scene from Gladiator. Although people urge him to put it down and women begin screaming, Ralph continues swinging until he inadvertently hits Georgie in the eye, severely hurting him. Meanwhile, Ralph has also begun a volatile relationship with a 20-year old Bada Bing stripper named Tracee. Although very beautiful and sweet, Tracee was also extremely naive, trusting Ralph was a decent person. One night while Ralph is conversing with Christopher, Bobby, and Gigi, Tracee walks by, and Ralph comments that she can't even say hello. Tracee is angry at Ralph for not calling her for a few days and insults him in front of his friends. Ralph then becomes totally irate and embarrassed. He proceeds to follow Tracee outside where they reconcile for a moment until Ralph makes yet another inappropriate comment regarding Tracee's baby which she is pregnant with and she asserts it is Ralph's — a claim he later denies to Johnny Sack. Ralph calls Tracee a "cock-sucking slob" then heated words turn violent when Tracee slaps and spits at Ralphie. An already cocaine induced Ralphie then becomes very enraged; he proceeds to hit and stomp Tracee to death. When Silvio Dante, Paulie Gualtieri, Tony, and Christopher Moltisanti discover her corpse laying outside, Silvio instructs Chris to cover it up with a sheet, while the others bring Ralphie back outside to explain himself on Tony's command. Tony and the crew instantly see past Ralphie's pathetic lie that "she fell." After Ralph comments "It's my fault she's a klutz?", Tony strikes him repeatedly, which violates traditional mafia code. Ralph defends himself by shouting, "I'm a made guy!"
This incident causes temporary bad blood between Ralph and Tony. If Tony never had a valid reason for hating Ralph before, he does now. Although Tony feels his response was justified, others, especially Ralphie, feel it violated traditional Mafia code. After Gigi Cestone dies of an aneurysm on the toilet from being constipated, Tony reluctantly installs Ralph as captain of the Aprile Crew, for he is the most qualified at the time. Ralphie's crew becomes the most most profitable crew of the family, mainly due to Ralph running the lucrative Esplande construction project.
Inspired by a story from Ralph, Jackie Aprile, Jr. and some friends rob a poker game that belonged to Ralph and his crew, which ends tragically as Jackie ends up shooting at Christopher Moltisanti, a made man, shooting Furio Giunta, also made, in the leg, and killing the dealer, Sunshine. To control the situation, Ralph orders the boy's death, which is very hard on him because he was currently dating Jackie's mother Rosalie. In season 4, it is discovered Ralph is a masochist. His briefly pursued relationships with Rosalie Aprile and Janice Soprano both ended badly, possibly because of this.
Later that year in 2001, while at Albert Barese's birthday dinner, Ralph makes a derisive joke regarding Johnny Sack's overweight wife, Ginny. He states, "I hear Ginny Sack is havin' a 95-pound mole taken off her ass." Instantly, the party bursts into an uproarious laughter. Johnny Sack was eventually informed of the joke via Paulie Gualtieri, who was in prison on a gun charge at the time, Johnny Sack was so personally insulted that he proceeded to contract a hit on Ralph for the insult, only to call it off at the last minute. Unknown to Johnny, calling off the hit did not only save Ralphie's life, but it also saved his own, for Carmine Lupertazzi had planned for Johnny to be murdered indirectly via Tony Soprano's hit men to make it less obvious since sanctioning the hit on Ralph was being insubordinate to Carmine's wishes when he informed Johnny he would not sanction the hit himself.
Following this incident, Ralph purchased a race horse from Hesh Rabkin named Pie-O-My. He and Tony work together to turn her into a winner. The horse eventually makes Ralph and Tony a lot of money. In 2002, Ralph's son Justin is badly injured when a bow and arrow is accidentally shot in his chest while playing an unsupervised game of Lord of the Rings. Ralph is devastated. He begins to turn to Father Intitola and vows to become a better person. Tension between Tony and Ralph comes to a head when Pie-O-My dies in a suspicious stable fire. Tony suspects Ralph did it to collect the $200,000 insurance policy to cover his son's medical expenses. Tony goes to Ralph's house to confront him. Although Ralph vehemently denies setting the fire, he mocks Tony's concern for the situation, implying he's a hypocrite. Once again, heated words have turned into a violent battle. Tony punches Ralph knocking him across the kitchen. Although Ralph fights valiantly with pots, frying pans, a knife, and spraying Tony in the eye with Raid, the fight culminates with Tony strangling and slamming Ralph's head against his kitchen floor shouting, "She was a beautiful, innocent creature!!" Ralph lies dead and beaten on his kitchen floor.
Tony enlists the help of Christopher Moltisanti to help dispose of the body. Christopher cuts off Ralph's head and hands with a meat cleaver, also discovering he's bald and wears a toupee, and places them in a bowling bag. Ralph's body is wrapped up and weighed down and thrown over into a quarry. Tony and Christopher then go to Mikey Palmice's hospitalized father's farm and bury the head and hands. Christopher, despite being high on heroin at the time, sees past Tony's lie that he found Ralph dead and knows in his heart Tony did in fact kill him over the horse. Ralph's disappearance becomes quite an issue. Tony delivers the cover story to his crew that Johnny Sack had Ralph killed over a business deal gone wrong. Because Ralph had a known feud with Johnny previously, this excuse is accepted by the family, though many believe Tony could have whacked him. Because no one liked Ralph, his death is never investigated. Ralph Cifaretto is finally gone and laid to rest, and as far as Tony is concerned, it was New York that put him there.
Ralph Cifaretto drives a green Lincoln Mark VIII coupe.
Later on in the series, Tony has (3) dreams which include Ralphie, as it is obvious Soprano is haunted by his death as well as others, such as Big Pussy and Mikey Palmice. One dream includes Carmela driving Tony's father's old Cadillac with Ralphie in the passenger seat. A caterpillar appears on Ralphie's bald head and then turns into a butterfly. A symbol perhaps that right before Ralphie's death he was in fact trying to change (although when Melfi asks Soprano if he agrees with the symbolism and if he changed he says "no") to become a better person. The second dream involves Tony following Ralphie into an old house where Tony sees a silhouette of a woman at the top of the stairs (possibly Livia.) In the episode, "The Test Dream" Tony rides in a car with Ralphie, Pussy, Mikey Palmice and several other deceased characters. When Tony asks "where we going?" Ralphie replies, "We're driving you to the job." In the dream, "the job" seems to be whacking his own family.