Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the footsteps of the iconic TV character Tony Soprano?
Fans have been given the unique opportunity with VirtualCons‘ event An Evening at Tony’s, which most recently took place on Saturday, May 29 in Caldwell, New Jersey. Both virtually and in person, fans were invited to spend an evening at The Sopranos’ house at 14 Aspen Drive (where it is inhabited by private owners).
The home’s exteriors were used during the show’s run, serving as the setting for several memorable moments including Tony’s (James Gandolfini) swim in the pool with some friendly ducks. I was lucky enough to attend the event on behalf of TV Insider and find out firsthand what it is like to visit the home.
After being bussed over by shuttles from a set pickup point, guests were welcomed at the bottom of the Soprano family’s driveway, a familiar spot where Tony would pick up his daily newspaper in the show. Climbing the steeper than expected incline towards the house, Tony’s white Cadillac Escalade was sitting there. I was half expecting to see Tony himself come bustling out the door.
Alongside the pool and patio, the event’s organizers had set up tents housing an open bar and an antipasto spread that included fresh mozzarella and Tony’s favorite gabagool (a.k.a. capicola). After a brief welcoming period, the real fun began when stars of the beloved HBO series began showing up and mingling with guests.
Federico Castelluccio (Furio Giunta), Vincent Pastore (Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero), Aida Turturro (Janice Soprano), Dan Grimaldi (Patsy Parisi), David Proval (Richie Aprile), and more showed up to bring the experience of being at Tony’s house to life.
Cast members also sat down to autograph posters for attendees. Castelluccio – just like his character Furio – even declared that golf is a “stupida f**king game.”
So how did this amazing fan experience come about?
“What originally inspired us was the 20th anniversary of The Sopranos,” Castelluccio tells TV Insider. “That was in 2019, so we decided to get together and create the first Sopranos convention (Sopranos Con). We thought we were going to have a few thousand people, but around 15 to 18,000 showed up that weekend.”
“That showed us that there is still a demand out there,” he adds. Castelluccio is the Senior Vice President of Talent Acquisition for VirtualCons which runs Sopranos Con. “There are a lot of new fans that we’ve acquired,” the actor noted.
An in-person experience like this doesn’t come cheap though as attendees dole out nearly $1,000 per ticket. Fans tuning in virtually don’t pay a dime though, and VirtualCons CEO Michael Mota is hoping to change the price tag in the future. “Unfortunately, this isn’t my home,” Mota says. “My goal is to buy it,” he adds,” then we can definitely [lower the price].”
One thing is clear when it comes to the crew running this event: they’re big fans of The Sopranos. While the event carried on, tunes like, “Woke Up This Morning,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Dirty Work,” and “I Saved the World Today” blasted from the sound system, permeating the crowd with a strong dose of nostalgia for the series which ended in 2007 after a six-season run.
One person feeling the nostalgia herself was Turturro who played Tony’s sister Janice in the series. Her bright energy couldn’t be stopped, but there was some deep emotion going on as she admits, “yes,” it is her first time back to the house since filming ended. “It was very weird walking in. The lovely owners let me use the bathroom, and when I came in, it was a little weird for me. I got a little sentimental.”
“I immediately felt and thought about Jimmy,” Turturro says, remembering her late costar. James Gandolfini died in 2013 after suffering a heart attack in Italy. “It was weird, beautiful, and a little sad. I can’t explain it.”
It is a surreal feeling walking in Tony Soprano’s footsteps, but one that more fans will hopefully get the chance to experience. For now, they can look forward to the arrival of The Many Saints of Newark, David Chase’s prequel film that will feature Gandolfini’s real-life son Michael in the role of Tony.
The Sopranos, Streaming now, HBO Max