Tony Sirico, best known to fans as Paulie Walnuts on 'The Sopranos', passed away on Friday.

Sirico was just shy of his 80th birthday, and the news was confirmed by his brother in a Facebook post.

The statement read that "the family is deeply grateful for the many expressions of love, prayer and condolences."

Prior to his breakout role, Sirico had a small part in Martin Scorsese's crime epic 'Goodfellas'.

Sirico led a colourful life, and was sleeping on his mothers couch at the age of 55 when he was given the chance to audition for 'The Sopranos'.

The actor initially read for the part of Junior, but show creator David Chase opted to cast him as Paulie Walnuts, one of Tony Soprano's chief henchmen.

Sirico appeared in 74 of the 86 episodes of the iconic show that ran between 1999 and 2007, with Sirico taking centre stage in the famous 'Pine Barrens' episode.

Steve Van Zandt shared a photo of himself and Sirico on Twitter, and said he was "a larger than life character on and off the screen."

Lorraine Bracco dubbed Sirico a "stand-up guy who always had my back" and said she had "a lifetime of memories with Tony".

"I hope he's in heaven now cracking everybody up now," she added.

Sirico's 'Sopranos' co-star Michael Imperioli also paid tribute to his co-star on Instagram, saying "Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big-hearted as anyone I’ve ever known."

"I was at his side through so much: through good times and bad. But mostly good. And we had a lot of laughs. We found a groove as Christopher and Paulie and I am proud to say I did a lot of my best and most fun work with my dear pal Tony."

Imperlioni added "He is truly irreplaceable. I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten."