Vito Spatafore, Sr., played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was a member of the DiMeo Crime Family and a subordinate of Tony Soprano. He was married to Marie Spatafore with two children, Francesca and Vito, Jr., and was a closeted homosexual. This was revealed in the show's fifth season and later became one of the more prominent subplots in the sixth season.
Vito Spatafore was introduced on The Sopranos in the Season 2 episode, The Happy Wanderer. He is a cousin to fellow mobster Richie Aprile. After Richie's release from prison in 2000, Richie inducted Vito into The Aprile Crew of which he took over as Capo after his release. Vito is also a cousin to Jackie Aprile, Jr. and Adriana La Cerva, though it is never mentioned how they are cousins. Richie Aprile wasn't capo very long. After he and Janice got into a heated argument over Richie's son's potential homosexuality, Janice shot him in the chest, then in the head—killing him instantly. Tony enlisted the help of Christopher Moltisanti and Furio Giunta to dispose of his body. This made Vito third in command to whomever would take over next.
With the exception of Tony, Chris, Furio, and Janice, no one knows Richie was killed except for Carmela (although she doesn't know the specefics). Tony convinced everyone Richie entered the "witness protection" program. Ralph Cifaretto returned from Miami following the death of Richie and demanded to be made Captain of the Aprile Crew; however, due to his insubordination, Tony passed him over and gave it to Gigi Cestone. In the season 3 episode Another Toothpick, Vito's brother Bryan Spatafore is violently attacked and beaten with a golf club by Salvatore "Mustang Sally" Intile because his girlfriend asked Bryan to give her a ride after a quarrel she and Sally had. Vito was infuriated. "I want this cocksucker to bleed from his ass, skippa", were his exact words to Gigi Cestone. Tony Soprano ordered a hit on Mustang Sally which was performed by Bobby Baccalieri's father Bobby Baccalieri, Sr. The elder Baccalieri died in an automobile accident after the hit, but justice had been served.
Later that year, Gigi Cestone died of complications from heart failure while sitting on the toilet. Tony reluctantly promoted Ralph Cifaretto to Aprile Crew Capo, which made Vito second in command. In the season 3 episode Amour Fou, Jackie, Jr. and his dim-witted friends Dino Zerilli and Carol Renzi decided to rob a poker game ran by Aprile Crew soldier Eugene Pontecorvo. They were aspiring to become "made" in the DiMeo Crime Family. Following a story Ralphie had told them about how Jackie's father and Tony were "made," he and his friends decided to rob the game. The results were tragic. Jackie, Carlo, and Dino shot and killed Sunshine the card-dealer, and Christopher Moltisanti shot and killed Carlo Renzi. Jackie, Jr. and Dino made it back outside with the money, but Jackie, Jr. escaped in a woman's car (their driver had already taken off). Dino was killed a few blocks down the street by Christopher and Albert Barese. To control the situation, Ralphie assigned Vito to do the hit on Jackie, Jr. Vito found Jackie, Jr. hiding at a housing project in Boonton and executed him as Jackie, Jr. walked down the street. It was Vito's first on-screen kill on the show.
In 2002, Ralph Cifaretto was violently beaten and strangled to death by Tony for supposedly setting the stable fire that killed his horse, Pie-O-My. He and Chris decapitated Ralph, removed his hands, and threw his body in the quarry. They buried the head and hands at the farm owned by Mikey Palmice's father. With Ralphie dead, Vito was promoted to Capo of The Aprile Crew. Vito was third or fourth in line for the throne of boss.
In season 5, Vito's secret was revealed to viewers in the episode Unidentified Black Males. Meadow's boyfriend, Finn De Trolio, was given a job at Vito's construction site by Tony. One morning when Finn arrived early for work, he witnessed Vito performing oral sex on a male security guard. Vito, however, scared Finn into keeping his mouth shut. He invited Finn to a Yankees-Padres baseball game to intimidate him further, but Finn, frightened, never showed.
In the beginning of season 6, Vito was shown to have lost 160 pounds in order to appear in a weight-loss commercial. After Tony was shot by Uncle Junior in the season 6 premiere, Tony was in a coma for 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 Dante suffered an asthma attack from the stress of being boss. Vito informed DiMeo Family Capo Larry Boy Barese that he was the best candidate for boss since he was the Captain 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 Carmela Soprano demanded a higher percentage of the cut 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.
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" saw Vito holding hands with a gay man. He was based on real-life Gambino crime family capo Matthew Ianello, 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.
Terrified of the consequences if his homosexuality 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, 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 beat him. 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 to their motorcycles to a secluded spot by a nearby lake, where they picnicked and made love. 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.
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 eventaully 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 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 "Fat Dom" Gamiello. Torciano and Gamiello duct-taped Vito's mouth shut and beat him to death while Phil Leotardo watched.