How NJ Shaped ‘The Sopranos’: New Book Goes Behind the Scenes of the Show

“Even though it’s a show about mobsters, it [provided] an awareness of New Jersey.... It’s a New Jersey phenomenon," says author Mark Kamine, the show's location manager.

Sopranos Series Finale
James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Robert Iler are seen in the series finale of "The Sopranos" filmed at Holsten's in Bloomfield. Photo: HBO/Photofest

Nearly 17 years after The Sopranos went off the air (and 25 since it premiered), fans still flock to the Soprano house in North Caldwell. People still drop by Holsten’s in Bloomfield, not only for the ice cream and burgers, but to witness where James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler filmed the show’s infamous final scene. There’s even an online map with hundreds of Sopranos filming locations listed, many immediately recognizable and others barely visible onscreen.

Clearly, the locations were—and remain—a key component of the iconic HBO series, helping to create the show’s New Jersey backdrop as Tony navigated the worlds of the Mafia and suburbia. In the new book On Locations: Lessons Learned From My Life on Set With The Sopranos and in the Film Industry, the show’s location manager, Mark Kamine, delves into behind-the-scenes moments—and some personal memories of the late Gandolfini and other cast members—that are sure to arouse fans’ interest.

“There’s all the New Jersey jokes about industrial waste and ‘What exit?’” says Kamine, a Garden State native. “Even though it’s a show about mobsters, it [provided] an awareness of New Jersey…. It’s a New Jersey phenomenon.”

Mark Kamine's book On Location

In his new book “On Locations,” Mark Kamine says fans would be surprised to know that “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini was “kind of shy and gentle—you don’t think of Tony Soprano as being a gentle person.”

In the book, out February 6 from Steerforth, Kamine describes how a bear once wrought havoc during filming at the Soprano house and how the home’s real-life residents got more peeved at the intrusions—and sought a higher payday—as the show’s success grew. He describes multiple awkward visits to the real strip club that served as the setting for the Bada Bing, Satin Dolls in Lodi, with barely clothed women dancing while he tried to negotiate filming parameters with the owner.

He also remembers Gandolfini, who died in 2013, as much sweeter off-screen than anyone would imagine, given his on-screen alter ego’s toughness, and the type of atmosphere he and Falco created on set. “James Gandolfini was kind of shy and gentle—you don’t think of Tony Soprano as being a gentle person,” Kamine recalls with a laugh. “Jim didn’t want to be the star, and Edie certainly wasn’t like that. So no one was asking for special treatment or expecting it.”

Mark Kamine

Kamine grew up in Wayne and raised his son in Montclair. Photo: Courtesy of Steerforth/Clay Enos

Two of Kamine’s favorite places where the show filmed were the pork store and the college campus that Tony and his daughter, Meadow, visit. After the pork-store location used in the pilot, Centanni’s Meat Market in Elizabeth, decided it couldn’t accommodate further filming, the crew had to jump into action to find a replacement, transforming an unoccupied shop in Kearny into the fictional Satriale’s, which can be seen in the opening credits.

The first-season episode “College,” filmed at Drew University in Madison, substituting for Maine, was one of the most memorable ever for both fans and for Kamine. It’s when Tony drops Meadow off on campus, then goes and kills a guy. In the episode, Kamine had an on-screen role as the dean of admissions, a decision by series creator David Chase that shocked Kamine, who says Chase decided “that location guy” would work in the one-line role after the casting process had dragged on and on. “I guess my thinning hairline and stuff made me an eligible candidate for the dean of admissions,” Kamine says.

Kamine grew up in Wayne and lived in Montclair with his wife for 17 years, raising their son there. He now lives in New York.

His current job is executive producer of another hot show, The White Lotus. When we spoke by Zoom in December, Kamine was in Thailand working on season 3. Although he loved working on The Sopranos in his home state of New Jersey, even he admits that filming in Thailand is “pretty hard to beat.”


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