By Serena Kappes
September 09, 2004 06:00 AM

1. She likes hitting the road: Fancy jets? First class? Nah, that’s not de Matteo’s style. In July, when the actress moved from New York to Los Angeles, where she’s filming Friends spin-off Joey, she opted for a road trip in an RV. Her traveling companions: her parents (Al, a sofa-bed manufacturer, and Donna, a playwright), her musician boyfriend, Shooter Jennings (son of late country legend Waylon), and her two pooches (Charlie, a bulldog, and Cyrus, a Great Dane).

2. She’s not always cool, calm and collected: After being part of la famiglia for five years on The Sopranos, the idea of joining a new cast gave her butterflies. “(At first) I was very nervous going onto another set,” she says. But Joey costar Matt LeBlanc put her at ease. “(He) sent me a huge thing of flowers with a note saying, ‘You belong here.’ That meant a lot to me.” How about the change from drama to comedy? Not a bad deal, says de Matteo: “Palm trees. No heroin. No beating.”

3. She’s a rebel: At 18, de Matteo got her first tattoo – a tiny cross on her ankle. “My mom was so mad, she threw me out. So I went out and had her name tattooed on my wrist. My dad’s too,” says the New York University film school graduate. She’s still every bit as spirited today: “You ask her something stupid, and you’ll get a kick in the butt,” says former Sopranos costar Tony Sirico.

4. She’s got an eye for fashion: Unlike her Sopranos character, Adriana, de Matteo isn’t partial to Prada and Gucci. In fact, her look is rock ‘n’ roll all the way. In 1997, de Matteo and ex-boyfriend Michael Sportes opened their own East Village boutique, Filth Mart, which specializes in vintage rock T-shirts, jeans and other hipster paraphernalia. Among the shop’s celebrity fans: Lenny Kravitz, designer Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler.

5. She’s loyal: De Matteo was raised in New York City with the help of a nanny, Ana Bravo. When Bravo had a heart transplant in 1993, de Matteo “sat in the hospital with her for a month,” then asked her to move in – and she has lived with the star ever since. “She took care of me,” says de Matteo. “So I take care of her.”