- "Wait a minute, wait a minute. Why was I born handsome instead of rich?"
- ―Ralph Cifaretto[src]
|Full Name||Ralph Cifaretto|
|Affiliation||DiMeo crime family|
|Behind the Scenes|
Ralph "Ralphie" Cifaretto, played by Joe Pantoliano, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Ralph is not present in Season 1 or 2, as he spends a prolonged amount of time in Miami from spring 1999 to mid-2000, returning following the "disappearance" of Aprile capo Richie Aprile. Ralph first appears on the show as a soldier in the Aprile Crew in the second episode of season 3, Proshai, Livushka but eventually reached the rank of Caporegime of the Aprile Crew in the DiMeo crime family, under the regime of Tony Soprano and Corrado "Junior" Soprano. Cifaretto is characterized as cunning and an excellent earner but also unstable and prone to sudden outbursts of violence, often for no reason and at the worst possible moment.
Ralph's 2001 return from Miami, FLEdit
Ralph Cifaretto was a member of the DiMeo crime family. Next to such other notable mobsters like Richie Aprile and Mikey Palmice, Ralph is one of the more unfavored members of the DiMeo crime family. He was born in the late-1950s and 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 led to Tony, Silvio, and Jackie, Sr. getting made and respected. At one point, Ralph mentions he wanted to be an architect but had to drop out of the eleventh grade after his mother's death, to raise his brothers and sisters. Ralph was sent down to Florida to watch over the family's interests in Miami, which he described as one big vacation. In Miami, he did excessive amounts of cocaine and developed an addiction to the drug, and later on would blame the drug for his violent outbursts. He returned to New Jersey in 2001, following the disappearance of Aprile Crew caporegime Richie Aprile. As he was a soldier at the time, albeit a high ranking one, 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" or "my crew".
Status with Tony SopranoEdit
Although they had gotten along in their youth, recent years had Tony having problems with Ralph; he viewed Ralph as obnoxious, disrespectful, and insubordinate, which is why he passed Ralph over for promotion and gave it to the less qualified, but more docile Gigi Cestone. Although Ralph was the highest earning member of his crew, Tony could not bear to promote someone whom he despised so much. At the time, Ralph had become obsessed with the 2000 film Gladiator and would incessantly quote the film, occasionally acting out the most violent scenes, which became very annoying to others around him. Ralph was always totally oblivious to others' feelings and would make the most inappropriate comments at the worst possible times. In the episode "Another Toothpick", Vito Spatafore's brother Bryan is violently beaten and put into a coma, and it is revealed that he will probably suffer permanent brain damage from the attack. Ralph remarks "look at the bright side: he wasn't that smart to begin with." He also undermines the leadership of the Aprile crew capo Cestone, who chooses the elderly Bobby Baccala, Sr. to kill Bryan's assailant, saying "You send in an old man; what's he gonna do? Gum the guy to death?"
As an earnerEdit
While Ralph may be loud and obnoxious, when it comes to earning, he is undefeated. Even when his son, Justin, was on the verge of death and comatose in the hospital, it does not hinder his earning ability, which is also complimented and acknowledged by Tony. Upon his return from Miami, he (as Junior says) "really whipped the Aprile Crew into shape." His earning skills assist in Tony seeing past him as a hazard and temporarily becomes Tony's prized earner during his short reign as capo of the Aprile Crew. Paulie becomes exceptionally jealous of Ralphie, because Ralphie outearns him and because the two don't get along. Paulie envies Ralphie to the extent that he is persistently searching for the slightest excuse to have him killed. Paulie becomes peripheral to Tony, as Tony is always focused on the abundance of income Ralph earns for the family. It is revealed that the family receives $3 million a year in construction alone due to Ralph's adroit business and managerial skills. Ralph does, of course, have a considerable advantage over the other capos, since he is in charge of the highly profitable Esplanade Construction. Reviewer suspicions have elicited the theory that the construction source may be bringing in more than $3 million a year and that Ralphie is only kicking up a certain percentage to Tony and pocketing the rest. This theory is somewhat valid, since Ralph lived considerably more lavish than the rest of the Soprano Crime Family members. His financial status is comparable to that of the big earners of the New York Lupertazzi Family. When Christopher discovers his corpse after Tony brings him over to Ralph's house, he comments, "He was a captain, T... our biggest earner." Patsy Parisi speculates to Albert Barese over their suspicion that if Tony whacked Ralph over the horse, that anyone of them could get whacked just as easily.
The Stripper IncidentEdit
In the episode "University", he enters the Bada Bing's V.I.P. lounge, loudly quoting and acting scenes from Gladiator. After making inappropriate comments, he picks up a chain and proceeds to swing it at Georgie, the club's head bouncer and bartender, in an attempt to imitate a battle scene from Gladiator. Although the men urge Ralph to calm down and women begin screaming, Ralph continues swinging until he inadvertently hits Georgie in the eye, which causes Georgie to have to wear an eye bandage for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Ralph has also begun a volatile relationship with a 20-year old Bada Bing stripper named Tracee. Although very beautiful and sweet, Tracee is also extremely naïve, unaware of Ralph's true nature. When Silvio Dante comes to Ralph's apartment one afternoon to get Tracee, who had been loafing around with Ralph instead of working to repay Silvio the money he had loaned her for braces, Silvio becomes violently frustrated and smacks her hard across the face, which Ralph finds funny. 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. Angered, Ralph proceeds to follow Tracee outside where they reconcile for a moment until Ralph makes yet another inappropriate comment regarding Tracee's pregnancy — earlier asserting to Tony it was his baby — a claim he later denies to Johnny Sack. Ralph calls Tracee a "cock-sucking slob" then turns violent when Tracee slaps and spits at him. Ralphie then becomes very enraged and 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 Ralph back outside to explain himself on Tony's command. Tony and the crew instantly see past Ralph's pathetic lie that "she fell." After Ralph says "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!" Tony justifies his actions by saying that Ralphie "disrespected the Bing."
This incident causes temporary bad blood between Ralph and Tony. Although Tony feels his response was justified, others, especially Ralph, feel it violated traditional Mafia code. Although Silvio believes that Ralph's actions were indeed despicable, Tony would only have been able to physically retaliate if it had involved a woman whom Tony either had a sexual relationship with or who was a blood relative, and Tracee was neither. After Gigi Cestone dies of an heart attack, Tony reluctantly installs Ralph as captain of the Aprile Crew, for he is the most qualified at the time. Ralphie's crew becomes the highest earning crew of the family, mainly due to Ralph running the lucrative Esplanade construction project.
In the season 3 penultimate episode "Amour Fou", inspired by a story from Ralph, Jackie Aprile, Jr. (Ralph's stepson to be) 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 reluctantly orders the boy's death. In season 4, it is discovered Ralph is into sado-masochism, including role playing as a female prostitute and being sodomized by his girlfriends via a phallic device of some sort. He briefly pursues relationships with Rosalie Aprile and Janice Soprano; both of these relationships end badly. Ralph dumps Rosalie for Janice (with whom he'd been messing around clandestinely behind Rosalie's back for a brief time), but Janice quickly dumps Ralph (possibly because of his preference for masochistic sex). In the episode "Mergers and Acquisitions", Ralph's latest mistress, Valentina La Paz, is introduced who later complains to Tony about Ralph's sexual inadequacies and eccentric sexual fetishes; she later breaks up with Ralph as well, begins dating Tony, and is his mistress through the end of Season Five. Valentina later makes it explicitly clear to Tony it was Ralph's sexual idiosyncrasies that caused their relationship to end.
The Weight JokeEdit
In the episode "No Show", while at Albert Barese's birthday dinner, Ralph makes a derisive joke regarding Johnny Sack's overweight wife, Ginny. Johnny Sack is eventually informed of the joke via Paulie Gualtieri, who is in prison on a firearms registration charge at the time. Johnny is so personally insulted that he contracts a hit on Ralph for the insult, only to call it off at the last minute. Unbeknownst to Johnny, calling off the hit not only saved Ralphie's life but also his own, for Carmine Lupertazzi had planned for Johnny to be murdered indirectly via Tony Soprano's hit men. By sanctioning the hit on Ralph, Johnny was being insubordinate to Carmine who would not sanction the hit himself, as Carmine judged that taxing Ralph may be appropriate punishment for the insult, but that a hit would be extreme. The joke Ralph made was that he "heard Ginny Sack was having a 90 pound mole removed from her ass". When explaining the incident to Carmine, an angry Johnny Sack said that "the implication is that her ass is big enough to have a mole that size removed from it".
Pie-O-My, his son's injury, and his demiseEdit
The final straw comes when Ralph purchases a race horse from Hesh Rabkin named Pie-O-My. The horse is a winner and makes Ralph and Tony (who offers advice on racing strategy) a lot of money. Because of Tony's advice, Ralph gives Tony a "piece" of his winnings. However, while Ralph only cares about Pie-O-My as a means to make money, Tony becomes emotionally attached to the horse, even paying for veterinary help and staying with her when she gets sick.
In 2002, in the episode "Whoever Did This", 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, and turns to Father Intintola for guidance, becoming remorseful about his many sins. Tension between Tony and Ralph comes to a head when Pie-O-My dies in a suspicious stable fire. Tony suspects Ralph caused the horse's death 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, pointing out that while he has special affection for animals, he shows no similar concern for human life. Once again, heated words turn into a violent battle. Tony punches Ralph, knocking him across the kitchen. Although Ralph fights back with pots, frying pans, a knife, and sprays Tony in the eye with Raid, the fight culminates with Tony strangling and slamming Ralph's head against his kitchen floor. During the fight, Tony screams out that "She was a beautiful, innocent creature!" and while that is clearly a reference to Pie-O-My, many reviewers felt Tony was also referring to Ralph's murder of Tracee the stripper.
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, but Tony eventually concocts a story that Johnny Sack had Ralph killed over a business deal gone wrong. Ralph rubbed almost everybody the wrong way, thus the real circumstances behind his death are never investigated. Ironically, however, right before he died, he was on his way to becoming the person he should have been all along: a Ralph people liked and respected.
Ralph lived in a townhouse when he first moved up from Miami, which he left when he moved in with Rosalie Aprile, and later briefly with Janice Soprano. When he becomes a capo, he is obviously making more money and buys a large suburban home in West Orange, New Jersey. He also drove a dark green 1996 Lincoln Mark VIII.
Rank: Soldier (after being passed up for promotion twice, was made a Capo.)
- Later on in the series, Tony has three dreams which include Ralph, as well as Tony's other victims, such as Big Pussy and Mikey Palmice.
- In the season 4 episode "Calling All Cars", which happens to be two episodes after the one in which Ralph is murdered, the first dream Tony has about him involves Carmela driving Tony's father's old Cadillac with Ralph in the passenger seat. A caterpillar appears on Ralph's bald head and then turns into a butterfly. When Tony discusses this dream with Dr. Melfi in therapy, Melfi points out the transition of the caterpillar to butterfly signifies a change, indicating Ralph was trying to become a better person shortly before his death. The second dream of the episode involves Tony following Ralph into an old house where Tony sees a silhouette of a woman at the top of the stairs.
- In the episode "The Test Dream", Tony rides in a car with Ralph, 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 season 6 part II episode "Remember When", Paulie Gualtieri is reminiscing about how he, Ralph, and Big Pussy Bonpensiero took Tony out to eat after he did his first hit on the bookie Willie Overall, at which point Tony is reminded about the Ginny Sack joke and questions Paulie as to how Johnny Sack may have found out; Paulie's understanding of what actually happened to Ralph (along with him, Tony and Silvio murdering Big Pussy) leads him and the audience to believe Tony is going to kill him too, but Tony decides to let Paulie live.
- In the episode "Walk Like a Man", Christopher Moltisanti, while extremely intoxicated, reveals to J.T. Dolan that he knows Ralph was murdered.
- In the series finale, "Made in America", Paulie tells Tony he doesn't want the job as captain of the old Cifaretto crew because of the bad luck that befell anyone in charge of the Aprile crew, including Ralph.