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James Gandolfini dies: Diner in 'Sopranos' finale reserves table in his honor

June 20, 2013|By Yvonne Villarreal
  • James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Edie Falco (Carmela) and Robert Iler (Anthony Jr.) are seen in the show's finale.
James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Edie Falco (Carmela) and Robert Iler… (Will Hart / HBO )

It’s where things went to black six years ago. Now, it's where admirers are going to pay tribute.

Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery, which serves as the diner where iconic Tony Soprano may have met his end, paid tribute to the late James Gandolfini with an understated act: a “reserved sign.” The famed booth (the third one on the left in the establishment's dining room) where Tony hunkered down in the series finale was eerily empty Wednesday, shortly after reports of the actor’s death. All the while, admirers filed through to pay their respects.

Chris Carley, co-owner of the Bloomfield, N.J., ice cream parlor, said  he placed the sign on the table as soon as he got wind of the news from a local TV reporter looking for comment.

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“I closed off the booth out of respect for the gentleman,” Carley, 59, told The Times by phone Wednesday night. “The place has been packed with people coming to see it, take pictures, and reminisce about their memories of the show and the great, great man who made TV exciting again.” 

Though the business has always been a go-to destination for “Sopranos” enthusiasts, things have dwindled as more time has passed since the show’s 2007 finish. Carley estimated that roughly 400 folks filtered through Wednesday afternoon through the restaurant's 11:30 p.m. closing time.

Carley fondly recalled his interaction with the burly actor.

 “He was all business when those cameras were rolling,” he said. “Oh, but when there was down time, he’d stand outside and light a cigar up — and he was, weirdly enough, just a softie. All the fear you may have had would just disappear. He would take pictures and sign autographs. I just wish I could say I knew what happened after the screen went blank!”

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The eatery would find itself at the center of one of the most memorable series finales in TV history — one that still has people wondering what happened to Tony when things went black. Carley said it’s the most-asked question visitors pepper him about.

“I wish I knew,” he said. “I thought it was my TV.”

“The Sopranos” has left an enduring mark on the ice cream shop. Carley said patrons unofficially call the onion rings “Tony’s rings.”  HBO gave the place the jukebox Tony was fiddling around with that fateful night he was waiting for his wife and children. Photos from the day of production hang on the walls, alongside a plaque that says, “This booth is reserved for the Soprano family.”

And, for now, the renowned booth gets a break from activity.

“It’s the least we can do to have his table ready for him,” Carley said. “Tony doesn’t need a reservation. Neither does James.”

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Yvonne Villarreal

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