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LI 'Impractical Joker' Joe Gatto writes book about his love of dogs and Italian desserts

Joe Gatto of TV's

Joe Gatto of TV's "Impractical Jokers" is the author of new book "The Dogfather: My Love of Dogs, Desserts and Growing Up Italian." Credit: Joe Gatto

Glen Head's Joe Gatto, a star of the truTV prank show "Impractical Jokers" and the TBS game show "The Misery Index," has published a book about his family's rescue dogs, most of them named after Italian desserts.

The trade paperback and ebook "The Dogfather: My Love of Dogs, Desserts and Growing Up Italian,” self-published this week in time for National Dog Day (Aug. 26), was an at-home project while he isolated during his and his co-stars' production hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I've been a big advocate of adopt-don't-shop," explains Gatto, 44, referring to adoption of stray or abandoned animals from shelters rather than buying pets from stores or breeders. To help spread that message, "I wanted to write about all my dogs that I know and love and are named after these desserts, and the experiences I've had with rescue and coming across these beautiful souls."

With the blessings of his wife, Bessy, 38, Gatto named his current dogs after some of his favorite Italian sweets since childhood: Cannoli, Biscotti, Tartufo, Spumoni, Pignoli and, for a German shepherd-corgi mix, the French dish Napoleon. The book also features two deceased dogs, Zeppole and Mishkeen — the latter named for what Gatto calls an old Sicilian word translating roughly as "awww … that poor thing."

"Mishkeen with his tongue hanging out, 12 years old, no teeth" Gatto recalls affectionately of the 4-pound mutt — partially deaf, partially blind, with "slight dementia" and needing a doggy diaper — that they had for less than a year in 2016 and 2017. "He was such a happy little mess."

Staten Island native Gatto — a graduate of LIU Post in Brookville, who recently moved his family, including daughter Milana, 5, and son Remo, 3, from Lynbrook to Glen Head — did production work on the book himself, and shot its copious photos with a Sony α7 II camera and a ring light. At the end of "The Dogfather," he gives contact information for area shelters, including North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington.

After Gatto and his castmates and lifelong friends James "Murr" Murray, Brian "Q" Quinn and Sal Vulcano had season 9's production of "Impractical Jokers” put on hold, they filled the void with the at-home, remote-video kibitzing of truTV's "Impractical Jokers: Dinner Party.” The cable network recently ordered 10 more episodes in additional to the six than ran beginning May. 

But now preproduction on season 9 has begun, adapted for social distancing. "You're not going to find us in a supermarket or walking around a park with the general public anymore," Gatto says. "We'll have more produced bits," such as faux focus groups and waiting-room gags. "We won't be tapping a stranger on the shoulder in the produce section," he assures, chuckling. The cast's summer comedy tour has been postponed to April. "The Misery Index," hosted by Jameela Jamil, has some season 2 episodes left that will air later this year, "and then we start production on that for season 3," Gatto says.

"It's definitely a scary time," he notes of the ongoing pandemic. "I'm just staying positive and knowing that we'll get on the other side of this thing and back to whatever the new normal is."

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