Arthur "Artie" Bucco, Jr., played by John Ventimiglia, is a fictional character on the HBO television series The Sopranos. He is a restaurateur and childhood friend of Tony Soprano. Artie appears throughout the series, from the first episode to the penultimate episode.
Artie is a longtime childhood friend of Tony Soprano and they went to elementary school together. He works as the owner and head chef of Nuovo Vesuvio, a local upscale restaurant. He wishes he could be involved in the work that Tony does but he doesn't have the "image" or the know-how. His wife always tries to keep him out of "the business" but the glory he sees in his friends, especially Tony, is a constant temptation.
Despite being one of Tony's best and perhaps truest friends, Artie's and Tony's relationship has had more than a few valleys. At the end of Season One, Artie learns from Tony's mother, Livia, that Tony was responsible for burning down his restaurant, "Vesuvio." Tony's Uncle Junior had been planning to stage a hit at Vesuvio on Little Pussy Malanga (not to be confused with Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero) and, despite Tony's repeated requests, refused to change the venue because he felt comfortable there. Tony, knowing that the restaurant's patrons would be chased away if a hit were to occur there, fashioned the solution of burning down the restaurant. That way, there would be no hit and Artie would be able to collect the insurance money and build a new Vesuvio. Artie built a bigger and even more prosperous restaurant, the Nuovo Vesuvio. However, Artie had a strong emotional attachment to the old restaurant and went ballistic when he found out his friend was responsible for the destruction of the old restaurant, confronting Tony with a hunting rifle in the parking lot of "Satriale's." Eventually Artie comes to believe Tony's denial of burning down the restaurant and he destroys his rifle before driving off erratically. There was a brief tension between the two, but by the end of the Season One finale, the two friends had made up and Artie kept his kitchen open to prepare a special meal for Tony and his family during a fierce storm. The tension over Tony's destruction of the old Vesuvio briefly resurfaced after the death of Tony's mother in Season Three. At a gathering at the Soprano household after Livia's funeral, Artie, who was catering the affair, turned over Tony's garbage cans and told Tony that he guessed their "secret" died with Livia.
In Season Four, Artie approaches Ralph Cifaretto and asks to borrow $50,000 so that he could use the money to act as shylock to Jean-Philippe, the brother of the new French hostess at Vesuvio, who needed $50,000 short-term to fund a business venture. Ralph denies Artie's request on the grounds that if Artie couldn't pay him back, he wouldn't be able to hurt Artie because of his close relationship with Tony. Tony finds out and is hurt that Artie didn't come to him first. Tony agrees to lend Artie the money on relatively generous terms (1.5% interest) and Artie, in turn, lends the money to the Frenchman on more strict terms ($7,500 interest). Jean-Philippe defaults and Artie, seeking to compel payment, pays him a visit, only to get beaten up himself. Despondent and unable to pay Tony back, Artie attempts to commit suicide by swallowing an overdose of pills and alcohol and calls Tony, sobbing, "I love you and I'm sorry I let you down." Tony had been in a fragile emotional state to begin with because he had just learned that his ex-comáre, Gloria Trillo, had committed suicide and he blamed himself. Tony calls 911 but is angry when he shows up at the hospital because of Artie's lack of consideration for those around him in attempting suicide, asking him, "Suppose I come over to your house and find you dead? How am I supposed to feel?" Tony tells Artie he'll assume the Frenchman's debt, including the interest, and collect it himself if Artie agrees to wipe clean Tony's $6,000 tab at the Vesuvio. Artie agrees, but suggests that Tony knew how the whole thing would play out from the beginning (Artie would fail, Tony would step in and collect the money from Jean-Philippe, and Tony would get his tab erased in the process). Tony becomes irate over the suggestion that he preyed upon his friend like a hawk and storms out, telling Artie not to tell anyone about their arrangement or the suicide attempt. The two have a bad falling out and don't speak to each other for the rest of Season Four and into Season Five, though Tony still frequented the Vesuvio during that time.
In the third episode of Season Five, Tony learned Artie had been living in a Motel 6 since his wife, Charmaine Bucco, got the house in their divorce and offered him a place to stay in his mother's old house, where Tony had been living since his separation from Carmela. Artie accepted the offer and the two friends reconciled. In Season Six Artie and Charmaine have reconciled. There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction amongst diners at Nuovo Vesuvio culminating in the episode "Luxury Lounge". Artie has hired another young hostess for Vesuvio - Martina, an Albanian he has been helping through the immigration process. Soprano crew associate Benny Fazio is a regular fixture at the restaurant's bar flirting with Martina to Artie's chagrin, ostensibly as Benny is a married man.
The restaurant has fallen upon hard times with competition from Da Giovanni's, drawing many customers away. Charmaine worries that Artie's constant presence on the floor chatting to customers is putting people off. Carmela sums up the restaurant's problems as a depressing atmosphere, stale menu and aging decor. Tony suggests to Artie that promotional offers might help. Artie responds with hostility to any advice given. He accuses Tony of disloyalty for dining elsewhere and again makes reference to his involvement in the fire at the first Vesuvio.
The restaurant's finances worsen when American Express suspends their service because a number of cards used at the restaurant have gone on to be used in fraud. Artie calls an emotional meeting with his staff to ask the perpetrator to come forward or at least halt their activities. He becomes irate and accuses a waiter, Alonzo, he knows has committed petty thefts in the restaurant before from his coat check girl Sandy. Sandy tells him afterwards she has noticed Martina wearing expensive new shoes. Artie confronts Martina and she instantly breaks, admitting she has been passing the card numbers to Benny - she then becomes hostile saying Artie's attitude to her changed when he realized she would not sleep with him and he has driven her to seek revenge. Artie is enraged and storms to Benny's house in the middle of the night. Benny tries to downplay his involvement but Artie will not be deterred and brawls with Benny, getting the best of him and delivering a beating severe enough to put him in the hospital. He seems particularly angry that Benny saw him as an easy target because he is not a criminal.
Tony invites Artie and his wife out on his boat and lectures Artie about his behavior. He tells him Benny is baying for blood. Artie again refuses to take advice on his situation, bemoaning the lack of fruit for his years of labor. Tony insists Benny dine with his family at Vesuvio to celebrate his parents' anniversary. The occasion falls at the same time as the restaurant's first "twofers night" — an occasion that disgusts Artie who has always regarded his restaurant as above such promotions. Artie makes a veiled reference to Benny's relationship with Martina in front of the family prompting Benny to scald Artie's hand in a cooking tomato sauce in the Vesuvio kitchen.
Tony visits Vesuvio with his wife and mother-in-law and takes the chance to recommend Dr. Melfi to Artie telling him he has been going about his life in pity for himself. Artie insults Tony by telling him to go to Giovanni's, questioning whether they would serve him customized food bland enough for his damaged pancreas — something Artie did for Tony after he was shot. Tony responds by telling Artie a hard truth: no one likes his chatter on the restaurant floor and he should spend more time in the kitchen.
In 2007, the indication is that Artie has dealt with his personal issues and worked to restore his business, with Nuovo Vesuvio even playing host to renowned New York Jets coach Eric Mangini. Artie had also catered Christopher Moltisanti's belated bachelor party at Nuovo Vesuvio without coming into confrontation with Benny.