Since his death of a heart attack on June 19, people from all over the world are remembering actor James Gandolfini. That includes Hamilton’s Gabe Macaluso, a businessman and fundraiser, met Gandolfini after a charity auction in 2005 and reminisced about their dinner together.

The actor, famous for playing the lead mobster, Tony Soprano, on the HBO hit series The Sopranos, was on a trip in Rome when his body was discovered by a family member.

"I didn’t know how to speak to them," said Macaluso, laughing, of Gandolfini's fellow mobster cast members.

He expected the cast of the Sopranos to sound and act more like the characters they played on TV. 

One of the prizes at the charity auction was a trip to New York City and a chance to dine with the cast at a Little Italy restaurant. Macaluso and his wife traveled ahead of the winners to make sure everything was set up. Macaluso said meeting the star of the show was a surprise to him and his wife.

Talked with Gandolfini about universal health care, Italy

"When we arrived at the restaurant…there were 14 cast members in addition to the four that were in Hamilton. And the bonus was James Gandolfini himself," Macaluso said.

Gandolfini and his fiancé sat across the table from Macaluso and his wife. The spent the evening chatting about his non-profit work in Hamilton, universal health care and the history the two men shared in event security. They also spoke about their family histories and Gandolfini’s desire to travel to Italy.

"He was making an effort to go back as many times as he could because he just loved it."

Macaluso said Gandolfini and the other cast members made him feel very welcome.

"When I was talking to him it was like talking to someone who was not in the entertainment business," said Macaluso. "It was just a casual conversation with a couple we met at the table."

After dinner, Gandolfini invited the couple to take photos with the cast and then a few of them went out for cigars.

Gandolfini was "a wonderful guy, a prince of a guy," Macaluso said.

The funeral for Gandolfini will be held on Thursday in New York.