The cast of the Sopranos have led tributes to the “truly irreplaceable” Tony Sirico, who was described as “nothing like his character” in the hit HBO show.

The actor, known for his portrayal of Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri, died at an assisted living facility in Florida on Friday, aged 79.

Michael Imperioli, who starred as Christopher Moltisanti in the Sopranos, said there was “no one else” like Sirico, who he described as “my dear friend, colleague and partner in crime”.

“Tony was like no one else: he was as tough, as loyal and as big hearted as anyone I’ve ever known,” he said, sharing a picture of the pair on Instagram.

“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.

“I will miss him forever. He is truly irreplaceable.

“I send love to his family, friends and his many many fans. He was beloved and will never be forgotten.

“Heartbroken today.”

Lorraine Bracco, who played Dr Jennifer Melfi on the Sopranos, said she had “a lifetime of memories” with Sirico.

“I adore Tony Sirico,” she wrote, sharing two pictures of the pair together.

“A stand up guy who always had my back and who loved my children and my parents.

“I have a lifetime of memories with Tony— starting with Goodfellas to The Sopranos and way beyond— but my God, did we have fun doing the Bensonhurst Spelling Bee—I’m still laughing.

“I hope he’s in heaven cracking everybody up now. Love you, my Pal…rest in peace.”

Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano, said Sirico was “tough and strong, yet sweet and a real artist” and that she was “lucky to have known” him.

“Oh Tony. I’m so heartbroken. I loved you so much,” she wrote on Instagram.

“I have never been able to walk into a room that you were in without you giving me an enormous hug, drenching me in your cologne, and making sure I knew any man that came near me would have to answer to you first.

“You were SUCH a phenomenal actor. Stealing every scene you were in.

“You were tough, and strong, yet sweet and a real artist. There will never ever be anyone like you.

“I feel so lucky to have known you and been loved by you.”

Steven Van Zandt, who played Sirico’s partner in crime Silvio Dante, described him as a “larger than life character”.

“RIP Tony Sirico. Legendary,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Silvio’s best buddy ‘Paulie Walnuts’ in The Sopranos, Frankie ‘The Fixer’s’ older brother Antonino ‘Father Tony’ Tagliano in Lilyhammer.

“A larger than life character on and off screen. Gonna miss you a lot my friend.

“Deepest condolences to the family.”

Katherine Narducci, who played Charmaine Bucco, wife of chef Artie Bucco, wrote: “Rest In Peace.

“I wish I could be sitting with all my Sopranos family right now.

“Sending love to everyone of you… My Heart goes out to Tony’s family . He was loved so dearly by everyone.”

Steve Schirripa, who played the bumbling Bobby Baccalieri on the show, shared a picture of the two on the set of children’s show Sesame Street, with puppets Bert and Ernie.

“Tony Thank You For All The Laughs My Friend Rest In Peace,” he wrote.

The show’s creator David Chase described Sirico as “so uproarious, so funny (and) so talented”.

“Tony was a jewel,” he said in a statement shared with the PA news agency.

“The way Buddhists refer to a jewel – supernatural and a master.  But certainly not a Zen master.

“He was so uproarious, so funny, so talented.

“I’m very happy for him that in his mid-fifties and sixties he finally learned how talented and loved he was.

“I was just thinking about him yesterday, strangely enough, and was reminded that he was a main reason for the success of The Sopranos.

“I will miss him greatly, Gennaro. As will the world.”

Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, who starred as Tony Soprano, said Sirico was “one of a kind”.

“Tony Sirico was one of the kindest, fiercely loyal, and heartfelt men that I’ve ever known,” he wrote on Instagram.

“He was always Uncle Tony to me, and Tony always showed up for me and my family.

“I’ll deeply miss his pinches on my cheek, and his infectious laugh. He was a phenomenal actor and an even better man.

“Tony was one of a kind.

“He touched many with his gift and my heart goes out to his family, his friends, and all of his fans.

“We love you Tony, thank you for all the joy you brought to many. You will be missed.”

Sirico’s manager Bob McGowan told the PA news agency: “He was a very loyal client of 25 years and he’s an ex-army vet and always gave to charities.

“He’s a big contributor to the Wounded Warriors and would always go to children’s hospitals.

“He was a great guy, nothing like his character on the Sopranos.”

The Simpsons creator Al Jean joked that, following the recent deaths of other famous mobster actors Ray Liotta and James Caan, the trio would now be having a “sit down in Heaven”.

“RIP the great Tony Sirico,” he said, sharing what appeared to be a cartoonised picture of the actor.

“Having a sitdown with Jimmy and Ray up in Heaven.”

Actor James Urbaniak said: “Tony Sirico got his part and entered the history books.

“Pure hilarity and charisma. RIP, big guy.”