Life and career
Russo was born in Manhattan, raised in Little Italy and Rosebank, Staten Island. After reprising the Rizzi character in a brief flashback scene at the end of The Godfather Part II, Russo went on to act in more than 35 movies, including Goodnight, My Love (1972), Lepke (1975, as Albert Anastasia), Laserblast (1978), Chances Are (1989), The Freshman (1990), Side Out (1990), Another You (1991), Super Mario Bros. (1993), Any Given Sunday (1999) and Seabiscuit (2003).
Russo claims that he started a fledgling career in organized crime working as an errand boy and mob associate for Frank Costello as an adolescent but later abandoned the dangerous and volatile lifestyle of organized crime.
Over the years since the beginning of his career, he has owned a Las Vegas restaurant called Gianni Russo's State Street (closed in 1988), dated Dionne Warwick for more than a decade, and successfully defeated 23 federal criminal indictments on a variety of charges stemming from alleged organized crime associations.
In 1988, he killed a man outside of his Las Vegas club and casino. A member of the Medellin drug cartel was harassing a female patron when he tried to intervene, the man stabbed him with a broken wine bottle. In return, Russo pulled out a gun and killed him. The case was ruled a justifiable homicide and Russo was not charged.
Russo is also a singer. In 2004, he released a CD called Reflections that pays homage to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.