New Jersey: in the footsteps of The Sopranos

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By Steve Colton, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on New York City.

Overall rating:4.0 out of 5 (based on 2 votes)
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Useful
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Inspirational
4
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Recommended for:
Activity, Cultural, Budget, Expensive, Mid-range

Murky bars, seedy clubs, nondescript car parks where coked-out gangsters conduct their grim business - okay, so 'The Sopranos' tour isn’t for everyone… but it's one way of seeing New Jersey

There are many reasons to visit New York – the striking cityscape, the vibrant nightlife, the stunning array of exotic foods (why don’t they sell knishes in the UK?). As an obsessive fan of David Chase’s The Sopranos, however, I was determined that at least part of my time in the Big Apple would be spent embracing The Sopranos Experience. Never mind that doing so would mean abandoning one of the most photogenic cities on the planet, to drive to the rather less iconic New Jersey

Before Jersey, I still had Sopranos business to take care of in NYC. Easily accessible by bus or subway, Little Italy in lower Manhattan is centred around Mulberry Street; you may remember it as the area where Johnny Sack beat up a guy in Ralphie’s crew before "buying him a drink". You might want to stop by the Mulberry Street Bar (176 Mulberry Street) where several scenes of the show were shot. Alas, during our visit, the bar’s clientele seemed entirely legit.

On to the coach tour proper, then. We had been told to meet up 15 minutes before the excursion was scheduled to start – and the reason soon became obvious. Joe Gannascoli, who played the gay gangster Vito, was signing autographs! For money. While seeing Veet in the flesh was mildly entertaining, paying for the privilege seemed a little off. Maybe we’d have been more tempted if it had been Paulie Walnuts.

Once on the coach and Jersey-bound, our guide introduced himself. A chirpy fellow, he would entertain us – more or less – throughout the trip, with information about the sights we were seeing as well as Sopranos trivia. As we drove away from New York, I was reminded that Tony takes a similar journey in the credits at the beginning of every episode. I wondered how he’d have dealt with the corny yammering of our host. Gazing back at Manhattan dwindling into the distance, it was impossible not to fall in love with the place – and ask myself what I was doing, leaving to go slumming it around low-life bars and seedy strip joints.

Of all the sites we visited, the empty retail unit used to film Satriale’s Pork Store was perhaps the most shockingly un-Sopranos-esque. Sure, it was novel to visit the meat merchant's where Tony and his cronies used to sit outside drinking espresso. Stripped of any reminders of its past use, however, the place was anonymous and unremarkable.

Other key locations proved similarly underwhelming; we visited the diner where Christopher had been ambushed by his protégé hoods, and the ice cream parlour where the notorious final scene of the show took place. We passed the famous Pizzaland shop, as seen in the show’s opening credits, and also found time to stop off for a cannoli (a cream-filled pastry). Each stop on the route proved less than exhilarating – but then, what did I expect? Had I been hoping that Silvio Dante would emerge from the Bada-Bing to start breaking out the Michael Corleone impersonations?

Ah yes, the Bing. Towards the end of the tour, we found ourselves attending Silvio’s dubious club. After a brief snoop around the car park where the wretched Ralph Ciffaretto beat his stripper girlfriend to death, we ventured inside the joint (known as Satin Dolls in the real world). I have no further comment to offer, save that New Jersey licensing laws make it illegal for strippers to operate on premises where alcohol is served; the ladies were dancing with their kit on.

So what did I think? Honestly, the magic of the television show isn’t reflected in the oddly characterless locations we visited; the thought arose that taking photographs of these resolutely dreary sights seemed more than a little absurd. That said, I’m glad I took the trip, if only to witness the gulf between fantasy and reality. If you don’t want to shatter any illusions, however, you might be better off sticking with Mulberry Street. You can book a place on the Sopranos tour at www.screentours.com/tour.php/sopranos/ .

Holidaying on a budget, we stayed at the Pod Hotel in central Manhattan and opted for bunk beds. The compact size of the room wasn’t a problem – and it wasn't too much of a bind to trot down the corridor to use the washing facilities. The larger rooms, by comparison, do have en-suite facilities. The rooms are surprisingly stylish, and there’s even a dock for your iPod if you want to listen sans headphones. For 130 bucks or so a night (for two of us), it felt like we were getting a good deal – especially since we were just nine blocks from Central Station.

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More information on New Jersey: in the footsteps of The Sopranos:

Author:
Steve Colton
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
4
Average: 4 (2 votes)
Total views:
520
First uploaded:
5 October 2009
Last updated:
4 years 39 weeks 6 days 23 hours 44 min 10 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Activity, Cultural
Budget level:
Budget, Mid-range, Expensive
Free tags / Keywords:
New York, Sopranos, Little Italy, New Jersey, Bada Bing, Satriales

Steve recommends

Hotels

Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Pod Hotel
£56
4.0

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Community comments (3)

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I agree with Andrew's comments and would add that this guide would be hugely improved with the addition of photographs. The writer has painted a vivid picture but I'm left wanting more.
A profile pic of the writer would be good too.

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Thanks for the kind words. I didn't upload any photos cos the ones I took myself were wiped off my hard drive and I'm not sure about the legality of linking to other people's photos on the internet? Hard to believe my ugly mug will improve the site, but I'll try to upload something in the next few days. And if you could sort me out with a full time job, I could really use the break. Thanks!

Rating:
4
0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Steve, I really like this guide – and we've published it as a test case. I love the quirkiness of your subject and the very specific angle you take. It's exactly the kind of thing I'd have commissioned on a national paper. I also love your writing style and your slightly sardonic humour. The only big question mark hangs over whether this guide serves a useful purpose for site users. You were, by and large, underwhelmed by The Sopranos tour – so not many people are going to book based on your verdict (though quite a few may avoid it, which is good consumer journalism). How much does any of this matter? Should Simonseeks include negative reviews of destinations and experiences, or is it meant to be a site that celebrates the very best of travel and exudes enthusiasm rather than scepticism? If a guide is a good read, but not particularly useful, should it be up here? We'd like to hear your views…

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