It's been almost six years since the cryptic and controversial finale of HBO's masterpiece series, yet Sopranos fans from all over the world are still gathering on Saturday mornings to relive scenes from the show. On Location Tours runs the Sopranos Sites tour, taking guests from the meeting point in midtown Manhattan on a rollicking tour of North New Jersey, stomping grounds of Tony Soprano, his crew and the colourful cast of characters in The Sopranos.
Before the tour we had the opportunity to meet one of the actors, the talented Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore on the show. He signed autographs and posed for photos with fans before we all piled into a comfortable coach to begin our journey.
Appropriately, we began along the route featured in the opening credits of each episode, which is supposed to take Tony from New York City to his home in North Caldwell, NJ. We saw many familiar locations from this iconic sequence throughout the day on the tour, including the Lincoln Tunnel, Pulaski Skyway, Valley Landscape Silo, The Muffler Man and the Route 1/9 Truck Bridge.
Our guide was Marc Baron, an extra on 13 episodes of the show. He kept everyone entertained with trivia and interesting anecdotes about behind the scenes information that will entertain any fan. Prizes were awarded for the extra tough questions and we were pretty impressed with the knowledge of some of the other guests on the tour. We've probably seen the show two or three times in full ourselves and couldn't guess a lot of the answers. So they showed some pretty serious dedication!
In addition to the photos shown here, we drove past or made stops at a number of familiar sites, including the Hackensack River Bridge where a significant whacking took place, the dead Czech's grave, La Pizza, Searchlight Diner (actually Seabra's Rodizo), Richie Aprile's private club, Carmine's Funeral Home and Party World, among many others. In between we watched clips from the show to refresh our memories. The atmosphere was really enjoyable and well-organized, with plenty of time for guests to ask questions and a nice pace for the day.
The two major stops were Holsten's, setting of the infamous final scene, and the Bada Bing, which is actually a real gentleman's club called Satin Dolls. At Holsten's the staff welcomed us with a taste of their delicious onion rings and we were invited to order lunch from their menu. This is no tacky tourist trap - we had the best grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches of our lives, still hot and delicious when we got back to the bus to eat them. The place was filled with regulars enjoying a Saturday lunch. Everyone lined up to take pictures in the booth that Tony, Carmela and AJ sat in, held open for us with a reserved sign.
Satin Dolls (aka Sil's club, The Bada Bing) was an interesting stop because the club is, in reality, quite different than on the show. First of all, New Jersey has a law prohibiting topless dancers where alcohol is served. You can only have the 'boobs or the booze' so to speak. So seeing the girls with clothes (albeit minimal) on was a surprise. Second, the club looks a lot bigger on the show because of all the mirrors inside. This is the one place on the tour where photos were prohibited and apparently some of the staff members have appeared on the show.
All in all, On Location Tours makes you feel like you're a friend of theirs, taking guests on a fantastic exploration into the world of The Sopranos. You can almost see this as a tour of North Jersey as well, which is a really interesting place often overlooked by visitors to New York. We had a great time on the tour and would recommend it to every Sopranos fan. If you're a fan of other New York area movies and televisions shows, check out On Location Tours for their full range of excursions.
Who's your favourite Sopranos character?