But fans still swarm the place where Tony Soprano bought the onion rings and then the farm. Including me, I’m embarrassed to say.
I confess that even after all this time, I vividly remember the finale four years ago. Ranked right up there with the ending to Six Feet Under, which was, without a doubt, the best ending I’ve ever seen.
Like everyone else I was stunned. To the point of not being able to sleep that night. It was so abrupt, I combed the Net for plausible explanations about the ending; at first foolishly buying into the theory Tony was still alive and a movie might be on the horizon. All the while realizing he was dead.The clues were everywhere.
Of equal importance was the restaurant. They sure got into those onion rings before the screen went black. My mouth was watering until it went slack.
And the place looked spectacular from the outside, all lit up at night. A fantasy land of comfort food. When I found out it was a real restaurant, it went on my to-do list for someday.
It’s in Bloomfield, near Nutta-lee (as Furio, one of Carmela’s love interests, used to call it), near Newark, NJ.
So I made a pilgrimage to my NJ roots for lunch. I’m from New York, but we settled near that part of Jersey when I was growing up (exit 151 on the Garden State Parkway) before moving south to Bruce Springsteen territory (exit 100.) The exit numbers are a Joisey Thang, as any native can attest.
I was familiar with Tony’s ride home from NYC — the open to the show. I confess I once barreled through the same Jersey Turnpike toll plaza singing along to The Sopranos soundtrack. Just another geeky fan.
I was concerned Holsten’s would be mobbed (no pun intended) for Saturday lunch and that the food would be mediocre. I was pleasantly surprised.
He put on the CD with Don’t Stop Believin’ and the Sopranos’ theme song, usually trotted out when the tour groups show up. We all laughed at the sound effect, grateful the throng wouldn’t be showing up until much later.
He confessed when he hears the Journey song elsewhere, like a chain restaurant, his impulse is to make a quick exit.
…so the famous door would be within Tony’s line of sight.
A bell was put on the door at the time to heighten the drama.
The regular mural was changed to one featuring a fictitious Bloomfield High School; the supervisor said he went there and it didn’t look like that …
And it’s not the one used in the scene. That one was a prop that left with the production crew.
The workers were cleared out, with the exception of the bosses who manned the grill and the owner’s mother. She was an extra who was there for the entire shoot, which ran almost 24 hours.
The restaurant folks say they couldn’t decipher the ending from what was being filmed.
Meadow Soprano could have easily parked in a parking lot down the street; but that, of course, wouldn’t have had the same effect.
The restroom signs were changed.
The famous onion rings for the table were served up in a salad bowl …
His loss, as far as I’m concerned.
I have to say onion rings aren’t my favorite. But these were moist, melt in your mouth. And the cheese steak, smothered in ketchup: Watch out, Philadelphia.
Told that Mitch’s cheeseburger was all good.
Plus, we just had to inhale some homemade chocolates on the ride home.
So the final score on the food:
Dusty road sundae
Points for no menu items like Carmela and Paulie Wet Walnuts sundaes