NEW YORK CITY, 7/14
(for a little while, and then North Jersey)
The plan all along had been to try our best to attend the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium on the Monday before the All-Star Game. Since this is the last season that the Yankees will play in the old Yankee Stadium, I really did want my kids to try and experience an evening there before it closes down. So on Monday afternoon, we made the trip into the Bronx with two tickets in hand, and needing two more.
We arrived in the Bronx around 4:00PM, exiting onto River Road and getting a good look at the new Yankee Stadium which is right across the street from the current (soon to be old) Yankee Stadium. In talking to my dad, despite his status as a Red Sox fan, he miraculously maintains friendships with many Yankee season ticket holders. Apparently, the new Yankee Stadium will house a baseball experience that is at least five times better than the current baseball experience for Yankees fans because the prices of tickets are literally quintupling. I, for one, completely understand; I mean, how else can you afford to pay set up relievers $6M per year? Seriously, upper deck tickets in the new Yankee Stadium have a face value of $400 apiece! After walking around the Bronx, I am going to make a calculated estimate that approximately 0% of the people living in the neighborhood near the park will be able to afford to go to a game. Thank God for the YES Network, though!
Jumping down off my soap box, I had a number in mind for the other two tickets; if I couldn't acquire them for less than $300 combined, my plan was to flip the two tickets we had for maximum profit margin and then go find some other activities for the evening. As it turned out, not only could we not find tickets for less than $300, we couldn't find any for sale at all! Seeing the dearth of available tickets, I put a 30 minute shot clock on finding tickets before it would become time to flip the two we had and go to Agenda B for the evening. My daughter was mildly fearful of her well being walking around the Bronx, and my sons decided to make up a new game called "Who can high five more homeless people?" So the sooner we resolved the ticket acquisition (or sell off), the better. As it turns out, we sold the two we had to a couple of baseball fans from Virginia, netting enough to pay for our gas and our activities for the evening. Only problem was, we weren't sure what those activities would be. We got back to the car, which miraculously I was able to park on the street while we were hunting down tickets, thus saving me from having to donate a kidney to pay for parking in the Bronx. I pulled out the atlas and noticed that we were a quick jaunt over the George Washington Bridge from North Jersey. It was at this point that I recalled a Youtube video done by Sopranos fixture and good friend of "The Sean and John Show", Joe Gannascoli ("Vito Spatafore" from the Sopranos); the video describes a Sorpanos reality tour. Here it is ...
So in my continued efforts to garner Father of the Year, I thought "What better way to spend the rest of the afternoon than to visit some Sopranos landmarks?" To be clear now, my kids do not watch "The Sopranos" (not until they are at least 12 years old, I say), but they do know who some of the characters are and they've seen the final scene on Youtube because they are big fans of Journey. (Sopranos fans know the Journey/final scene correlation.)
We started with a little trip over to Lyndhurst to take a picture in front of La Cebeles, which is a Spanish restaurant that serves as the home of Vesuvio. On the show, Vesuvio is owned by Tony's boyhood friend Artie Bucco's, and it continually spirals downward in terms of food quality and clientele throughout the arc of the Sopranos series.
Next we jumped over to Satin Dolls on Route 17 in Lodi, which is better known as the Bada Bing to Sopranos fans. This was the one landmark that I did not ask my kids to pose in front of, as there reaches a point in a Sopranos reality tour where you wonder if Child Protection Services would get involved. So I merely told my children that Satin Dolls was a "dance studio" and left it at that. Not exactly a lie, but certainly not the entire truth either.
Once I finished the "How to explain a strip club without really explaining it" obstacle course with my kids, we headed up the Belleville Turnpike in North Arlington to Pizzaland. Anyone who has seen the Sopranos opening credits probably subliminally recognizes the place pictured to the right. It's on for a total of about 2 tenths of a second in the opening montage but the bright green letters and the sheer joy that I experience when seeing the word "pizza" are enough to make it easy to remember.
After scarfing down a quick slice and a Coke at Pizzaland, it was time for the two main events of the impromptu Sopranos reality tour -- Tony's house and Holsten's, which is where the final scene was located. We drove all the way out to North Caldwell which is an absolutely beautiful suburb located out in the hills of North Jersey, and after winding our way down many wooded back roads, we pulled into a cul de sac and found 14 Aspen Drive, and maybe the most recognizable house for a family on TV. At worst case, it is second behind the kick ass duplex monstrosity designed by Mike Brady on "The Brady Bunch". (Thankfully, unlike Mike Brady, Tony Soprano had the foresight to (a) hire someone else to design his house, (b) build a back yard without Astro Turf, and (c) make sure the house had an occupant to bathroom ratio better than 5 to 1.)
Last but not least, it was time to get some dinner at Holsten's in Bloomfield, NJ. Now when I figured out that we would be making this trip over the bridge from New York, I figured that getting dinner at Holsten's would be fun, but potentially a really long wait. I mean, if I lived near the place where they filmed the final scene of the Sorpanos, I'd be eating there every night. I figured there would be a line out the door and we'd have to be patient. Well, apparently, the novelty has worn off for residents of Bloomfield because not only did we walk right in, but we also ate in the exact booth where they filmed the last scene! Yes, the sign in the booth says "This booth reserved for the Soprano Family".
You remember the final scene, right?
Three things that are depicted at Holsten's in the Sorpanos that are different in real life at Holsten's:
(1) The mural in the Sopranos is different than the actual mural currently (and normally) on display at Holsten's. You can see the normal mural in the picture to the left.
(2) The booths don't have the little jukeboxes at them. Those were added to the TV show for obvious reasons. No jukebox, no Journey.
(3) The mysterious guy sitting at the counter in the Members Only jacket, who some theorize killed Tony after going into the bathroom and getting a gun (a theoretical "Godfather" homage), actually walked into the LADIES room. I don't know if that makes it more or less likely that he killed Tony, but it does make it more likely that the seat didn't get put down in the ladies room that night.
And for the record, I ordered a bowl of onion rings for the table like Tony....
HOLSTEN'S - BLOOMFIELD, NJ
FOOD: ONION RINGS
GRADE: "BEST IN THE STATE, FAR AS I'M CONCERNED". SOLID A.