You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mario Perillo

Tour operator, 'Mr. Italy'

Mario Perillo, the silver-haired tour operator whose raspy television pitch, “Go Perillo to Italy,” persuaded more than a million Americans to visit that country, died February 28 at his home in Saddle River, N.J. He was 76.

The cause was cancer, his family said.

Mr. Perillo, known as “Mr. Italy,” built his father’s modest travel agency into the world’s largest operator of escorted tours to Italy. He was most famous for his plain-spoken radio and television commercials, which he wrote and produced.

Until he joined the Army in 1944, Mario Perillo had never ventured farther than 40 miles from his home in the East Tremont section of the Bronx. When he returned from military service, he earned a law degree from New York Law School before deciding to work alongside his travel agent father, who retired in 1965.

Perillo was obsessed with all things Italian — he ate Italian food, wore Italian suits, drove Italian cars — and was the sort of man to tell certain business associates when things went wrong, “Well, that’s because you’re not Italian.”

About a decade ago, when his business in Italian voyages dipped slightly, he established package tours to Bermuda and the Bahamas. Perillo Tours, now run by his son Stephen, today offers guided trips to several European capitals and to Hawaii.

Aside from Stephen, he is survived by two daughters and another son.

More Scene

  • Lilli Cooper Tootsie

    How the 'Tootsie' Musical Was Updated for the #MeToo Era

    Turning the beloved 1982 comedy “Tootsie” into a 21st century musical already seemed like a challenge when work on the adaptation began back in 2016. Then the #MeToo movement revved up — and the writers knew they couldn’t tell Dorothy’s story for a modern audience without it. “It’s different than it was when the movie [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

  • Taylor Swift Time 100 Performance

    Watch Taylor Swift's Time 100 Gala Performance and Speech

    Just two nights out from Taylor Swift D-day spring 2019 — i.e., Thursday’s release of a new single — Swift made an appearance Tuesday at the Time 100 event in New York, where she did not let loose with any spoiler performances of new music but did sing a few fan favorites, including “Style,” “Delicate,” and [...]

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content