Today, Thursday, January 10, is the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Sopranos on HBO. How is that a story for Verona? Because a lot of the show was filmed here, and because the show’s creator, David Chase, had ties to Verona that started well before the show was ever conceived.
The house used as the home of Tony Soprano’s mother Livia was 55 Gould Street, down the street from the field at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School. A house at nearby 56 E. Reid Place was the fictional home of character Robert Baccalieri, Jr., better known to viewers as “Bobby Baccalà”. When there was filming there, or in Verona Park, the cast and crew of The Sopranos used the basement of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit as their canteen.
Chase grew up in Clifton, but in the 1960s and early 1970s his father managed Wright’s Hardware, a business that was located across from Verona Park in the building that is now home to Jazzercise, Verona Yoga and the Magic Cuts barbershop.
When The Sopranos debuted, and for all the years that it ran, there were many debates about how the show portrayed Italian-Americans and whether it reinforced negative stereotypes. But it wasn’t the first piece of entertainment to be so criticized. Back in 1972, Chase’s father (whose original last name was DeCesare) castigated some residents of Verona for their role in fostering a derogatory view of Italian-Americans. That’s because they had appeared in “The Godfather”. One of the movie’s casting agents lived here then and Jerry Leopaldi recruited his friends, neighbors, and a Verona teacher for bit parts. This reporter’s father, Richard Citrano, was among them, and he was one of those who got a rebuke at Wright’s when he went shopping for hammers and nails.
Just something to think about when you are watching the re-runs.