“Sopranos” Actor Steve Schirripa Creates A Diet For Life

Steve Schirripa, who plays Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri on The Sopranos, says of his new book The Goomba Diet (Crown Publishing, $23), “Obviously it’s a humor book, you know. You can tell by looking at me.” In his thick Brooklyn accent, he spills some beans about life, living large on The Sopranos set, and his future.

What prompted you to write “The Goomba Diet”?

Steve Schirripa: This is the third in the series of Goomba books, you know. … And when we talk about a diet book we’re talking about, you know, people with an appetite for life, who like to live. There’s so much crap. What you can eat, what you can’t eat, what you can drink, what you can do. You can drive yourself crazy. So why don’t we just have a good time and not be too much of a pig? … When I say it’s a “diet book,” it’s a diet of life.

So goombas live large?

They do everything with a lot of passion. They jump in with both feet. Whether it be kids, their job, loving — they do everything in a big way. You know, they go out, they have a big dinner, they have big wine, they have big weddings, big kids’ birthday parties. That’s how most goombas live.

Like Italians from the old country?

Exactly. What’s amazing is Italian Americans, they sound different but no matter where they’re from — New York, Cleveland, Milwaukee — they kind of look the same. You got guys … from all over [the rest of the world] and they don’t look different until they open their mouths.

It almost seems that if you are going to love pasta and bread and olive oil and cheese, you’re bound to get a bit large, or maybe really large. So how do you suggest that goombas stay in shape?

Ah, you know, everything in moderation. On the Goomba Diet, if you feel like you put on a few pounds, you find fatter friends. If you don’t want to exercise, you hire someone [to exercise for you]. It’s tongue-in-cheek.

How do goombas fare on the set of “The Sopranos”?

There’s a ton of food on the set. You come in, you eat breakfast. There’s lunch, sometimes a second meal. And there’s food just constantly — everything from cookies and cake to … pepperoni to Italian bread. … There’s real food all day long, and sometimes guys get bored eating that and you order out from one of the restaurants. Plus, you’re eating in scenes a lot. Sometimes you gotta watch what you eat while you’re not working because if you’re gonna have to eat, you know, 42 sausages, you gotta be careful. And believe me, it happens.

So do people on the set have a problem with packing on some extra pounds?

I don’t pay attention to other people but I do put on some weight during the season, more so than when I’m not [working]. You get bored on the set and the food is readily available, and every time you pass the table you grab a handful of this and a handful of that, you know.

Who on “The Sopranos” are true goombas?

Oh, a lot of the guys. When I say goomba, it’s a mensch, it’s a friend, it’s a compadre. It’s not derogatory in any sense of the word.

In the book we talk to Michael Imperioli, Stevie Van Zandt, Lorraine Bracco and Vinnie Pastore. And everyone says what’s their idea of a great night out and everyone had almost exactly the same answer: Good friends, a good dinner, good wine, some laughs.

Should we expect another cliffhanger this month or did this final season get written as one long series of events?

Tony is torn between ethics and greed … and a lot of people start questioning themselves.

As far as a cliffhanger, I don’t believe so. That’s not [series creator David] Chase’s style, you know. We’re gonna take three months off and then we’ll go back to work the end of June, those of us who have made it. Some of us will make it and some of us won’t.

Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior) is doing an incredible job playing someone who is losing his memory. The first episode of this season might even make him an Emmy contender. Is he still playing such a strong part through to the end?

Yeah, absolutely. Dominic was nominated for an Emmy a few years ago. He’s a terrific actor. You light up when he comes on the screen. … Here’s a guy who, before he was on The Sopranos, was living in a studio apartment. He didn’t make it until he was 70 years old. … He’s a wonderful guy and he’s been a tremendous help to me.

And a wonderful singer. He gets to sing and play his music now, thanks to The Sopranos and his success. … We played Vegas together. I opened for him.

You’re doing a lot of different things, aren’t you?

Yeah, I’m a correspondent for Jay Leno. I have a show on Spike TV every Wednesday night. It’s called Casino Cinema. We’ve been doing that since November ’04. I got a deal with Touchstone TV for my own half-hour comedy. Some stuff with the Travel Channel, and some other things. We do a live show, Comedy You Can’t Refuse, myself and Michael Imperioli. … I enjoy doing a bunch of different things.

Travel Channel?

We got some stuff doing Steve Schirripa bouncing around to different cities, showing them through my eyes.

Ever thought of doing a cooking show?

I’ve been approached. But I’m not much of a cook. I’m more of an eater.