Vincent Andrew Schiavelli was born into a Sicilian-American family in Brooklyn, New York. He studied acting through the Theater Program at New York University and began working on the stage in the 1960s.
He first appeared on film in 1971, in Milos Forman's Taking Off. His aptitude and distinctive appearance soon gave him a steady career in supporting roles. Forman in particular was a regular user of his talents. He has appeared in almost fifty films. Noticed in movies he got his first television work in 1972, a minor character in The Corner Bar.
Schiavelli is also author of a number of cookbooks, his grandfather was a respected Sicilian chef, and Schiavelli has also written food articles for magazines and newspapers. He received a James Beard Foundation Journalism Award in 2001 and has been nominated on a number of other occasions.
He was married to the actress Allyce Beasley from 1985 until 1988, marrying the musician Carol Mukhalian in 1992.