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In honor of their 25th anniversary, Sopranos fans gathered in Manhattan for a special tour of iconic filming spots through North Jersey last week, capturing the show’s gripping narrative.  The tour, provided by On Location Tours, took everyone through the secret lives of Tony and the gang, and promised by the end of the day we would be “part of the family”.  A long-time fan of the show, and recent New Jersey resident (as of October), this was a fantastic way to celebrate the Garden State’s most famous residents and learn a few new things. After this story, if you are interested in taking the tour for yourself, you can book your timeslot here.

A Significant Meeting Spot: The NYC Garment District

To start the tour, everybody was asked to meet at the Button sculpture of the famous Garment District at 39th and 7th. The reason for this is that the Garment District has significant mob ties. Fans of the show will recall Tony venting to Dr. Melfi about him being unhappy with his “work” because of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act)  Statutes.  RICO laws enacted harsher penalties for those caught being involved in mobster activity, leading to a lot of family members becoming informants for authorities.

Tri-state area residents may be familiar with Thomas and Joseph Gambino. They, of course, are the sons of infamous Mafia Don, Carlo Gambino. Both brothers had a stranglehold on the garment district through their city trucking companies.

NYC Garment District Button Sculpture

NYC Garment District Button Sculpture

Following Tony Soprano

After meeting at the sculpture and getting on the bus, we began the tour where any good TV show starts, the opening credits. Like Tony Soprano, the tour started with us going through the Lincoln Tunnel. Sadly, Alabama 3 was not there to sing that famous song we all know and love. Once we exited the tunnel we were on our way to some of the more iconic spots seen throughout the show.

A View from the Lincoln Tunnel

A View from the Lincoln Tunnel, leading into New Jersey

 

  • The Real Muffler Man

    Our first stop was The Carpet-Clutching Muffler Man. This fiberglass giant, seen underneath the Pulaski Skyway, is displayed prominently in the opening credits of the show.  I was surprised to find out that the statue was not in its original spot. The statue moved from its original location on Hoboken Avenue. The tour guide also said (I hope as a joke), that there was a discussion about moving the muffler man in front of a dispensary. There, they would replace the muffler/carpet with a giant joint.

    Muffler Man Under Pulaski Skyway

    Muffler Man Under Pulaski Skyway

     

  • Verbum Dei High School

    We made our way to Harrison and saw Washington Middle School. Fans of the show will recognize this location as Verbum Dei High School, where Meadow and A.J. attended. Many hallway, pool, and auditorium scenes were filmed on-site here back when it was Harrison High School.  It only became Washington Middle after Harrison changed locations. Possibly the most memorable scene filmed here was when A.J. and his friends snuck into the school after-hours. They would destroy the school’s wall of pride, and toss trophies, along with garbage into the pool. What fans might not notice during their first viewing, is that there is another A-list celebrity in that scene. Watch again and you will see a young Lady Gaga joining in the destruction of school property. She probably should have warned him not to leave any evidence at the scene of the crime.

    Washington Middle School

  • La Pizza

    Since A.J. is a terrible criminal, our next stop was La Pizza on Harrison Avenue. The principal of Verbum Dei found a pizza box at the scene of the pool devastation, and police were able to trace it to this restaurant. The cops informed Little Joe at the restaurant that not revealing who ordered that pie would make him an accessory to the crime. Soon after, A.J. gets in trouble with the school. La Pizza is one of the locations that did not change its name during filming, and according to our tour guide, A.J’s order has become a regular when taking out orders — “double meatball, pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions, extra mozzarella”

    La Pizza Restaurant

    La Pizza, 240 Harrison Ave, Harrison, N.J.

  • St. Cecilia Parish

    Just 100 yards from where Satriale’s Pork Store used to be is St. Cecilia’s Parish, which was prominently displayed in season 1, episode 8, “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti”. This episode had a heavy focus on Christopher Moltisanti, as his dreams are haunted by Emil Kolar, the man he killed. Chris is struggling to write his screenplay as he realizes he does not have an “arc” like the characters in his story. It’s not until he sees his name in the newspaper of people under investigation by the FBI he feels a sense of pride. He collects all the newspapers and runs off — the church being in full view of this scene,

    St. Cecilia's Parish

    St. Cecilia’s Parish, Kearny Ave, Kearny, NJ

  • Holsten's Ice Cream, Chocolate & Restaurant

    My favorite part of the tour had to be Holsten’s in Bloomfield. This, of course, is the location of the very last scene of the series. The final moments of the show continue to be a topic of discussion among fans — Was Tony killed? Who was that man in the members-only jacket? Are those onion rings really the best in the state?  At this stop, we were given time to have our pictures taken in Tony’s booth, as well as order those famous onion rings. Interestingly enough, before the final episode of the show, Holsten’s did serve onion rings. It wasn’t until the final episode aired, that the demand increased to add them to the menu. Another thing immediately associated with this location, whether intentionally or not, is the song Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. Steve Perry, the lead singer of Journey was given special oversight of how the final scene would go. According to our tour guide, Sopranos Director David Chase was almost not granted the right to use the song. The reason for that is because according to Chase, he received a called from Steve Perry where he said “I do not want you to kill Tony Soprano to my song”. Steve must have also been a fan. Those who go on this tour should take some time to grab Sopranos merchandise the restaurant has available, and check out behind the scenes photos that are hung up on the walls.

    Holsten's in Bloomfield =, NJ

    Tony Soprano's Booth in Holsten's

    Sitting where Tony Soprano sat where he COULD have met his untimely end

     

    Behind the Scenes at Holsten's

    One of many photos hung around Holsten’s commemorating the Sopranos and the attention it gave

  • The Bada Bing

    The last stop on the tour of course had to be the infamous Bada Bing. One can imagine why this was the only stop on the tour where pictures of the inside were NOT permitted. In reality, the bing is a functioning club called Satin Dolls, and they are proud to be part of the show’s legacy. The sign-out front reads “Home of the original Bada Bing”. An interesting fact we learned on the tour was that a lot of the girls seen on the show were real-life dancers of Satin Dolls. Our tour guide said if we rewatch the show, look for the dancers who look a little extra tired. It’s likely they just finished an 8-hour shift at the club before they started filming. The club also had its fair share of Sopranos souvenirs from shirts to license plates. While technically we were “allowed” to buy a dance while we were there, most of us were hesitant. The thought of a tour guide barging into the champagne room, mid dance,  to take you back on a bus seemed unappealing.

    Satin Dolls Club

    The filming location of the Bada Bing club, Satin Dolls in Lodi, NJ

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