Ventimiglia was born in Queens but grew up on the other side of the Hudson River in Teaneck, NJ. Though he played football on his high school team, his real passion was for drama, and after graduation he moved to New York City to study at the famed Lee Strasberg Institute. It was there that he met Michael Imperioli, another struggling actor who became his close friend, roommate and eventual "Sopranos" co-star. After plying his stagecraft for a few years, Ventimiglia landed his debut film role as a prison guard in "Swoon" (1992), based on the real-life love story of kidnappers Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr. He next appeared in the '20s crime-comedy "Bullets Over Broadway," and transitioned to TV with a guest role on an episode of the critically-acclaimed cop drama "Homicide: Life on the Street." His supporting role as a small-town mechanic in Buscemi's well-received "Trees Lounge," centered on Buscemi's aimless barfly, caught the eye of TV writer and producer David Chase, who was in the process of putting together what would become his signature series, "The Sopranos." Chase hired the casting directors behind "Trees" and eventually cast four actors, including Ventimiglia, from the film. His portrayal of the loyal but insecure Bucco, Tony Soprano's childhood friend and proprietor of popular mob hangout Nuovo Vesuvio, served as a much-needed civilian counterpoint to the hotheaded mob boss. The hardworking actor, who almost left the show to care for his two young daughters, was upgraded from supporting actor to series regular in the beginning of the third season and given several major storylines before the show ended in 2007. It was during this time that he returned to the stage, performing in a Jack Kerouac-inspired piece as well as "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui." Ventimiglia's post-"Sopranos" career has been marked by a variety of performances in both indie films and primetime TV series. After a string of guest roles on shows such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000-15), he was cast as a hardened Brooklyn cop in the Biggie Smalls biopic "Notorious" (2009). He next appeared as an Off-Broadway-loving vampire in the occasionally clever "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead," and was featured as a racetrack hustler in the Cassavetes-inspired "Ponies" (2011). That same year he landed a supporting role on "Blue Bloods," following a family of New York City police officers, and has since appeared as a mafioso in "The Iceman," about real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski.