Joe and Arlene Mantegna have gone through intensely difficult times but they never gave up on each other.
72-year-old actor Joe Mantegna may have achieved immense success with roles like Joey Zasa in The Godfather Part III, Eddie Mauser in Baby's Day Out, Mike in House of Games, and David Rossi in Criminal Minds. But he didn't get this accomplishment completely on his own. Behind his success is his wife, Arlene. Married to her for 45 years, their relationship is one of the few in Hollywood that has lasted so long and he couldn't imagine his life without her.
It was in high school that Joe met Arlene when they were both performers for their respective schools, Morton East High School in Illinois and Morton West High School in the same state. Though the two were introduced to each other while doing district-wide musicals together, true sparks didn't start flying until they were cast by chance in a Chicago production of Hair. And then in 1969, the two started dating without really giving marriage a thought. “We just had a lot of fun, but we didn’t get married for the longest time because we were hippies,” said Arlene, according to People.
But in 1975, the two decided that taking the next step in their relationship was important. Prior to their wedding though, the two shared sweet, informal vows in one of the most romantic places in the world — atop the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, stated the magazine outlet.
In 1978, the two of them made a permanent move to Los Angeles in order for Joe to follow his acting dreams. However, it was slow going until 1984, when he gained some attention after performing in a Broadway Play. While he slowly gained recognition and rising fame, he wasn't perfect. Through all the difficult times, Arlene was there for Joe. During a performance at the famed Goodman Theatre in Chicago, the actor messed up his lines and it was an awkward moment as he tried to recover during the scene. But his embarrassment was overshadowed by love when, during intermission, Arlene hugged him and gave him encouragement, according to Country Living. Once the second act came around, Joe was back in his element, so much so that one Chicago critic rated him "brilliant."
By 1987, the couple were ready to bring their first daughter Mia into their lives. However, she was born three months early as a result of an infection in the umbilical cord and struggled a lot, giving the couple a lot of heartbreak and fear. However, despite many terrifying moments where she would stop breathing completely, they didn't give up on her. The then-40-year old Tony Award winner even changed the white light bulb on his front porch to a red one to make it easier for ambulances to find them. And at age two, Mia had been diagnosed with autism. "You go through a million emotions," Joe said. "Your heart flies out of your chest."
"I remember it hit my wife and me like a ton of bricks, because, first of all, it was just a word we had heard about," he said, according to Brain World Magazine. It was a time when autism awareness wasn't as high as it is today, so for Joe and Arlene, it was scary. The actor even likened it to getting polio as a child. “You were afraid to walk in puddles and stuff because nobody even knew how you got it, and there was no cure for it. So it was a little like that.”
However, they were determined to make her feel normal like every other person. They weren't the only ones though. When Arlene had their second child, Gina, in 1990 at a time when Joe was getting booked for more and bigger roles, their second daughter was extremely attached to Mia. "She’s wise beyond her years and really understands Mia," he told People. So despite the hardships they faced, they were a happy family. The mother-of-two continued to support her husband and take care of the house and Joe rose through the ranks of fame.
Knowing he wouldn't be where he is today without her, Joe supported her dream of opening her own restaurant. Together, they opened Taste Chicago in 2003 located in Burbank, Chicago though they shut it down in 2019. But that doesn't stop them from being there for each other. According to Fabiosa, the actor said, "Outside of my immediate family, she’s the only one that’s really taken the ride with me. She’s been able to be part of it all, and contribute toward it all, and do it all, and see my dreams come true, at least in terms of a career, and have children together."