Christopher Meloni grew up in a family of doctors. The father and grandfather of the Law & Order: Organized Crime star both practiced medicine.
When the PBS show Finding Your Roots contacted Meloni in late 2019, he asked that they specifically dig up some historic details on a distant relative — his great grandfather, Enrico Meloni, who sold olive oil in Boston. Enrico was the first of his family to come to the United States.
Most everyone wants to know about their ancestors. We Outsiders mostly came here from somewhere else. You can be proud of growing up in the United States and still be curious as to how you got here. Meloni was no different. And the results brought Meloni to tears. Remember, the star of Law & Order: Organized Crime has made a living playing tough, complicated characters. So what details brought forth such a strong reaction?
‘Law & Order: Organized Crime’ Star’s Great Grandfather Was Abandoned at Birth
Enrico was an orphan. Hospital records from a small town in Italy revealed that Enrico arrived there from the wheel, “wrapped in swaddling clothes and cotton rags.” Meloni asked about the “wheel.” Host Henry Gates explained that wooden cradles were built into sides of religious buildings. Parents, usually impoverished, could abandon their children there. They’d place the baby in the cradle, ring a bell, then leave without ever being identified.
Records show that Meloni’s great grandfather probably was raised by a local nurse. She received payments for Enrico until Enrico was 12. That’s when Enrico had to fend for himself.
“Oh man, that’s the school of hard knocks,” said the Law & Order: Organized Crime star. Then he teared up, as he spoke to Enrico as if his great grandfather was in the room with him. “Oh, I owe you a debt. … yep, that’s what the feelings are.”
The show also revealed that Meloni and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. Congress, are distant relatives. Like Meloni, Pelosi can trace her roots back to Italy.
The Finding Your Roots episode with Meloni and fellow actor Tony Shalhoub, ran this past February about two months before the series premiere of Law & Order: Organized Crime. The show’s research also revealed that a branch of Meloni’s family tree was French Canadian.
Here’s the clip about Meloni’s grandfather.
Meloni’s Show Returns with New Story Arc Dec. 9
Law & Order: Organized Crime fans probably will be disappointed Thursday. There’s no new episode. We’re still trying to absorb what happened last week, when the first eight-episode arc ended with the wild arrests of Jon Kosta and the Briscus, Albi and Flutera. Meloni’s Elliot Stabler also was a mess of emotions as he ended his undercover assignment. When you go undercover for so long, that life becomes yours.