Some knew him as Tony’s driver and for those who did not watch ‘The Sopranos,’ Anthony Ribustello was a man who impacted the Bronx Republican Party for many years.
Ribustello, of Country Club, passed away Saturday, December 28 at the age of 53.
Besides portraying Dante Greco on the renowned HBO series, he ran for borough president in 2009, served on Community Board 10, was a Republican Party district leader, county committeeman and former deputy chief of the Bronx Board of Elections.
Ribustello died while waiting for a kidney transplant. He is survived by his wife Rena and a son.
Steve DeMartis, who was friends with Ribustello since they were 15, spoke about his departed friend. While they grew up in different neighborhoods, Ribustello in Pelham Bay and DeMartis of Morris Park, they met in high school at Cardinal Spellman.
From a young age, he knew his friend would achieve big things.
“He always had an infatuation for the stage and acting,” he said.
He recalled how one of Ribustello’s first gigs was doing a commercial for the Ginsu knife.
According to DeMartis, at Iona College, Ribustello joined clubs and did theater and eventually went on to star in ‘Law and Order’ four times and appeared in about six movies.
“I was delighted for him because he was able to achieve that goal,” he remarked. “He just touched so many people. He had the biggest heart you could imagine.”
The lifelong friends hung out often at Scaglione Brothers Bakery and Deli in Morris Park. DeMartis stressed how he will always be grateful to his friend for helping him get a job with the Board of Elections in 2012.
Since his passing, social media has been flooded with praise for him.
“I’m very sorry to learn of the passing of Anthony Ribustello,” said Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. on Twitter. “Anthony was not only an actor and activist, but a great character with a warm heart. The Bronx will miss him. Rest In Peace, Anthony.”
Mike Rendino, the chairman of the Bronx GOP, knew Ribustello for about 20 years. They grew up in nearby neighborhoods and 11 years ago got involved in the political world together.
Rendino recalled that Ribustello used to come to Sebastian’s bar, where Bridges is today, at Miles and East Tremont avenues, where he was a bartender.
“He was a very happy fun loving guy,” he said. “He made a difference with anyone who met him.”
Elizabeth English, the Republican female district leader of the 82nd District, knew Ribustello for 13 years. He taught her a lot about politics and she will sorely miss him.
“I literally spent 365 days for 13 years with him,” she told the Bronx Times. “He was a great guy. He was one of a kind. He put his heart into everything he did. There was never a dull moment with Anthony.”
Executive director of the Bronx Board of Elections Mike Ryan first met Ribustello in 2010 when he was commissioner. They worked together for a decade and Ryan recalled how Anthony always put other people first.
He described him as “professional, caring and humble, with a larger than life presence.”