Short, stocky character player whose furrowed brow, hawk nose and hearty manner made him an instantly recognizable figure on stage, screen and TV from the late 1950s. Starting as a professional actor in his mid-30s, Gardenia played supporting roles on Broadway in "Volpone" (1957), "Only in America" (1959) and "Seidman and Son" (1962) and in films including "The Hustler" (1961, playing a bartender) and "Mad Dog Coll" (1961, playing Dutch Schultz). He won a Tony for his performance in Neil Simon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" in 1972 and earned a New York Film Critics Award and his first Oscar nomination as the baseball team manager in "Bang the Drum Slowly" (1973). His second nomination came as Cher's philandering father in "Moonstruck" (1987).
Gardenia appeared in many other Simon plays including "God's Favorite", in a role written specially for him by the playwright. He is perhaps best known as Archie Bunker's loquacious, ever-singing, culinary buff neighbor Frank Lorenzo on the CBS perennial, "All in the Family".
Gardenia spent a considerable portion of his career playing huffy but good-hearted police officers, detectives, and station captains in TV movies including "Cops" (1973), "Muggable Mary: Street Cop" (1982), "The Dark Mirror" (1984) and "Brass" (1985), and films such as "Heaven Can Wait" (1978). His final film appearance was as the father of Joe Pesci in "The Super" (1991).