If any actor deserves a grand tribute in New Jersey, it’s the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini. This past Sunday, December 1st, was christened “James Gandolfini Day” in the actor’s hometown of Park Ridge, New Jersey – and many of his former castmates were in attendance.
According to local newspaper the Record, the local Borough Council organized the tribute, which also featured appearances from Sopranos cast members Steve Schirripa, Tony Sirico, Dominic Chianese, Vincent Curatola, Vincent Pastore and John Ventimiglia, along with hundreds of locals. A stretch of Park Avenue was also dedicated to Gandolfini, who died in June after suffering a massive heart attack while vacationing in Italy.
The event was certainly emotional: Michael Gandolfini, the actor’s 14-year-old son, spoke about his father’s love of his hometown and reminisced about eating at the Park Ridge diner, one of his father’s favorite restaurants. “He just told me every story about every place here,” Michael said, according to the Record. But the mood was also celebratory, and Mayor Terence Maguire even managed to sneak in a Sopranos joke: “We thought maybe we were going to get a mob,” he said, referencing the show’s mafia cast. “It looks like we did.”
Back in September, Gandolfini was honored at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards by his Sopranos co-star Edie Falco, who battled tears during a tribute speech. “His portrayal of Tony Soprano had such depth and dimension that a lot of people still have a hard time believing that’s not who he really was,” Falco said. “Well, I’m here to tell you, Jim was really quite different. He had tremendous warmth and heart. He was kind and uniquely generous.”
Days after his death, Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers reflected on Gandolfini’s legacy in a tribute of his own. “James Gandolfini dead. I don’t buy it,” he wrote. “Like I didn’t buy that his iconic character, Tony Soprano, was the victim of a hit during the finale of The Sopranos. He was too big. Big in size. Big in talent. Big as in unbreakable.”