Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey. His mother, Santa (née Penna), was a high school food service worker of Italian descent who was born in the United States and raised in Naples. His Italian-born father, James Joseph Gandolfini Sr. , was a native of Borgo Val di Taro, in the Northeastern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, who worked as a bricklayer and cement mason and later the head custodian at Paramus Catholic High School. James Sr. earned a Purple Heart in World War II. Gandolfini's parents were devout Roman Catholics who spoke Italian at home. Due to the influence of his parents, he developed a strong sense of Italian-American identity and visited Italy regularly. He had two sisters.