Figo! Meet Dr. Melfi at Paisan Con, Jersey’s First Italian Pop Culture Showcase

Mingle with stars from The Godfather, Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and more

Mingle with stars from The Godfather, Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and more

Bring your paisans to New Jersey’s first Italian heritage and pop culture convention for a chance to mix and mingle with some of the biggest Italian-American celebs in entertainment, sports, culinary arts, and more. The inaugural Paisan Con is aiming to celebrate all things Italian and includes a film festival, costume contests, and other interesting ways for attendees to engage.

Meadowlands Chamber member Annabella’s House of Mozzarella in East Rutherford is the primary sponsor of the event. Paisan Con is the brainchild of Annabella’s owner Billy Pompeo and actor comedian Nick Petito.

Paisan means countryman or friend in Italian, but “You don’t have to be Italian to be a Paisan,” according to the convention’s website. Paisan Con takes place from 11 a.m. (VIP starts at 10 a.m.) to 7 p.m. at the Fairfield Doubletree by Hilton in Fairfield, New Jersey.

Fairfield was chosen to host the exclusive entertainment showcase because it’s the most Italian municipality in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Census. More than half of Fairfield’s 7,475 residents are of Italian ancestry. Nationwide, 17.8 million Americans are of Italian descent, with New York having the largest percentage.

“I think it’s about time we had an event that features Italians and all we have contributed to world culture, art, food, fashion, music and on and on,” Gianni Russo told the New York Post. Russo played the wife-beating mobster Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather.

From autograph sessions and exclusive meet-and-greets, to live performances, art, tributes, vendors and more, Paisan Con is jam-packed with fun. There are contests for costumes, meatballs, sauce vs. gravy, best art, and pasta eating. There are too many live performances to list, but they include celebrities, music, and comedy. There also will be vendors, food, plenty of photo ops, and lots of surprises.

The first annual Paisan Awards take place right after Paisan Con wraps on Sunday, April 14, estimated at about 6:30 p.m. There will be a Red Carpet experience featuring music, comedy, and celebrity appearances. Nominees and winners of Paisian contests and the Paisan Film Festival will be announced and awards presented.

Here is a partial list of celebrities appearing at Paisan Con. The full list is here.

Lorraine Bracco — A Brooklyn-born actress best known for her roles as psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi on “The Sopranos,” and as Karen Hill in Scorsese’s enduring classic “Goodfellas.” She has been nominated for an Academy Award, four Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Kathrine Narducci — Actress since 1993, with her debut in the film “A Bronx Tale,” directed by Robert De Niro. Since then, she has gained much recognition for her role as Charmaine Bucco in The Sopranos and has been featured both in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and Euphoria.

Federico Castelluccio — Born in Naples, Italy, Castelluccio earned widespread acclaim for his role as Furio Giunta in The Sopranos. Since the show’s conclusion in 2007, his talent and dedication to his craft have continued to make him a respected figure in the entertainment world.

Tommy “Cutlets” Devito — Fan-favorite quarterback of the NY Giants earned the chicken cutlets nickname when he said he still enjoyed coming home to his favorite dinner — chicken cutlets. He’s also known for his Italian hand gestures and rating Italian food wherever he goes.

Gianni Russo — A titan of cinematic history, the Italian-American actor and singer cemented his place on the big screen with his iconic role as Carlo Rizzi in “The Godfather.” Since then, he has partaken in numerous business ventures and published his memoir in 2019.

Rosanne Sorrentino — Best known for playing the title role in the third national tour of Annie in 1980. In the movie adaptation, released in 1982, she was instead given the role of Pepper, the biggest, bossiest orphan. Since then, she has appeared in the documentary Life After Tomorrow, chronicling her time playing Annie, and currently serves as an assistant principal at Brentwood North Middle School on Long Island.

Joey Dee — A prominent figure in the early rock-and-roll scene, who rose to fame as the lead singer and bandleader of Joey Dee and the Starliters. Since the band’s breakthrough in 1961 with the release of their Billboard-topping “Peppermint Twist,” Joey Dee has continued to make himself known both for his musical talent and dynamic stage presence. 

Giuseppe Rossi — The former professional footballer makes a rare public appearance. Over his career spanning 3 decades, he has proven himself an accomplished forward for the Spanish and Italian football clubs Villarreal and Fiorentina. He retired at the end of the 2023 season. 

Get Tickets Now For Paisan Con

Tickets are $45 for a weekend pass and $30 for a single day. Youth 12 and under $20 a day, $30 weekend. VIP weekend is $125.

There are also separate tickets to be a contest judge for best meatballs or gravy vs. sauce. There are also tickets for pasta eating and celebrity shows. Additional information, including the announcement of new celebrity attendees, can also be found on the Paisan Con Facebook page.