“The Sopranos” is widely considered one of the most remarkable television series of all-time, and according to my North Jersey friends, the show is the pride of the Garden State. Being a massive fan myself, I continuously hear bragging from my friends about “The Sopranos” taking place in their hometown. But like many TV shows and movies, often the setting isn’t actually where the filming takes place. So, I began to wonder, how “Jersey” is “The Sopranos” actually? In what follows, I’ll seek to answer that very question by looking into where exactly they filmed on-location the most.
Background on the Show
Before we get into my findings, I want to add a quick background on the show for those not familiar. But please note that if you have not seen the show, some spoilers will be revealed, so you can’t say I didn’t warn you!
“The Sopranos” is about the mafia after its prime, specifically in the late 20th century and early 21st century, when the mafia was no longer the organized crime powerhouse it used to be. The show explicitly follows the main character Tony Soprano and his families—his biological one, and his mafia crew. Tony lives in New Jersey, hence this is the primary setting of the show. The television series places particular emphasis on Italian-American culture as well, relating to its setting in North Jersey. “The Sopranos” is filled with drama, endless personality, violence, and just about anything else you can think of; it deserves the high praise it receives.
From the literal beginning of the show, in what is now an infamous introduction, you can feel how much the creators try to capture New Jersey:
The Process for Judging Authenticity
It’s clear that representing the essence of New Jersey was crucial, but now we need to see if they succeeded. There are many different ways I could’ve gone about trying to prove the authenticity of “The Sopranos” as it relates to New Jersey. The process I decided on was to find out which on-location spots were used the most, meaning locations not filmed in the studio.
What follows is not about the locations of the most critical scenes; enough writers have already written pieces like that. The sites I looked at had to be filmed at and used in the show a minimum of five times. If they didn’t often film in New Jersey, how can the show truly capture that hometown feeling?
With each of these most-used locations, of which fans of the show will instantly recognize, I wanted to give the backstory, the actual location, how many times it was used, and its purpose in the series. It should be noted that when “The Sopranos” was filmed in the studio, it was at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City, NY.
For each location below, I include the name of how it appeared in the show and its exact place in real life. Sometimes the actual location coincides with the area in the television series, but not always. With that said, let’s take a look at the most commonly used out-of-studio sites in “The Sopranos:”
1 – Tony Soprano’s House – North Caldwell, NJ
Unsurprisingly, this was the most frequently used out-of-studio location, including endless memorable and essential scenes. However, a unique aspect of this location is that after being well into the show, the producers eventually built a complete in-house replica at the studio in Long Island City. From that point forward, all shots filmed in the house were done so in the studio. But as fans know, many scenes are shot outside the home as well, which would’ve been on location in North Caldwell.
Today, the home is frequently visited by fans and was even overwhelmed by flowers and other signs of appreciation for James Gandolfini after he passed in 2013. They shot there likely 30-50 different times. The owners, Victor and Patti Recchia, were instrumental in allowing the producers frequent access and lived there for 32 years. Last I saw, the house was on the market for roughly $4 million, in case any of you have that kind of cash on hand.
2 – Nuovo Vesuvio – Astoria, NY
This location was used 38 times in the show and is what the producers used as Arthur’s restaurant, his second one, at least. The restaurant was a real place by the name of Punta Dura, which when I looked it up a few days ago, unfortunately, had permanently closed. I’m unsure whether that was COVID-related or not; either way, it’s a shame. It’s very close to Silvercup Studios, making it easy to use and get to. As fans of the show know, many classic scenes took place here.
3 – Satriale’s – Kearny, New Jersey
Another fan favorite here, Satriale’s, was the butcher shop where Tony’s crew often hung out. The backstory of this place is a unique one. The site itself was located in Kearny; however, it was just an old body shop used strictly for the show to look like a meat market. Unfortunately, they tore it down after the show’s filming to build a condominium development, which never got made. Though it was a staple location in the series, not all shots at Satriale’s were filmed at Satriale’s. Only scenes done outside or at the very front of the inside of the store were shot on-location. In contrast, anything in the butcher shop or the back hangout room was filmed in-studio. Satriale’s appears in 38 episodes throughout the series.
4 – Livia Soprano’s House – Verona, NJ
Here we have Tony’s mother’s house and eventually, his younger sister’s. This house was a consistent location in the show, but like Satriale’s, not all appearances were filmed there. All interior shots were done in-studio, but there were still shots outside the house in 17 different episodes, which would’ve been done on-location in New Jersey. There are several scenes of people going in and out of the home or even talking outside, they used more than just imagery of the house. Throughout the entire six seasons, Livia Soprano’s house appeared within numerous critical scenes.
5 – Green Grove Retirement Home – West Orange, NJ
“It’s not a nursing home; it’s a retirement community!”
Fans know the classic and all-too-relatable line from Tony to his mother, often heard early in the show. Of course, he was referring to Green Grove, which remained influential throughout the series. It’s actually known as Green Hill Retirement Home in real life; it seems the producers didn’t get too creative with this one. This location appeared in 15 episodes in the show and every season except for five. It was a lowkey but pivotal spot in the series. Many critical events took place there, like early meetings between Junior and Livia, and Paulie’s troublesome interactions with his mother later on in the show.
6 – Johnny Sack’s House – North Caldwell, NJ
Though Johnny Sack was a New York family member, his house is in Jersey both literally and figuratively, which becomes a contention point between him and Tony. This house was the location of the infamous scene of Sack’s arrest and Tony’s surprisingly agile escape through the snow. The house appeared in 12 episodes throughout the show. As you can see, this is the second key location that was located in North Caldwell, as Tony’s house was as well. This likely wasn’t random as the director had a personal connection to North Caldwell from growing up there.
7 – Garden State Plaza Mall – Paramus, NJ
Many of the scenes shot here always made me wonder why nobody in the background was reacting. It’s as if nobody knew “The Sopranos” was filming. The mall was used throughout the show, appearing in at least five episodes from seasons two through six. This location was a go-to spot for Tony and others for having discreet meetings and discussions, including a scene where he gets approached by Vito, who had long been in hiding. Obviously, it’s a real New Jersey mall too.
8 – Averna Social Club – Mulberry Street, New York City
This location is known as Mulberry Street Bar in real life and was used in 15 episodes. It also appeared in famous mafia movies like “Donnie Brasco.” Consider this spot to be just like Satriale’s, but for Johnny Sack’s family. It’s located in Little Italy, in real life and in the show, as Johnny Sack is part of the New York family and not the New Jersey Sopranos family like Tony. Some of the most critical meetings in the show between the families and their respective bosses occurred at this club. Though this location wasn’t meant to be set in New Jersey, it still speaks to the authenticity that the creators tried to capture, as New York City and specifically North Jersey often can coincide with one another.
For the sake of being concise, this is the end of the list. However, there were at least 10 other locations that appeared at least five times in the series. Some of these include crucial spots such as Junior’s house, Crazy Horse, and Bada Bing (which, as fans of the show will understand, I didn’t include for obvious reasons. But it’s a real club in Lodi, NJ with a different name). Out of these 10 other locations filmed on-site at least five times, seven were located in New Jersey.
So, How Jersey Was The Sopranos?
“The Sopranos” authentically captures Jersey through-and-through, there’s no question. Despite the studio being in Long Island City, the show’s producers went out of their way to find the right spots in New Jersey, with Arthur’s restaurant being a notable exception. This commitment to filming on-location gives the show an extra dose of authenticity.
Though I focused exclusively on the consistently used on-location filming sites, it should be noted that in doing so, I left out a massive list of other locations used that either appeared one time or less than five times. My research was greatly aided by this wonderful site, which has a full list of locations and more. On that list, you can see how spread out filming was throughout New Jersey and the New York City area. It’s estimated that some 500+ locations were used to film out-of-studio.
A fascinating aspect I found in my research was the incredible amount of cooperation this show depended on between the producers and everyday people. Tony’s house and Arthur’s restaurant are prime examples; they were a real person’s home and restaurant, respectively. The owners of both places consented to lots of filming and use. This cooperation was crucial for capturing authenticity.
Also, if you’re ever interested in seeing some of these locations or perhaps want to save yourself from entertaining your in-laws, there’s a New York City sightseeing tour that exclusively takes people from NYC to popular filming locations in New Jersey. Some of which were mentioned here.
If you think I missed out on something or perhaps have a different opinion, let me know in the comments. I’m always willing to talk more Sopranos and New Jersey!
Main Photo Credit: Anthony Neste/HBO/The Kobal Coll