James Gandolfini mourned in NJ’s ‘Sopranos’ towns

ELIZABETH, N.J. – A bag of uncooked ziti in the driveway, a “reserved” sign at the ice cream parlor booth where the series abruptly ended, and a framed photo at a strip club were among the tributes paid to James Gandolfini in the northern New Jersey communities where his TV character Tony Soprano lived, loved and whacked people.

The star of the HBO series about a mob boss with anxiety issues and a midlife crisis died Wednesday night in Italy of an apparent heart attack.

In neighborhoods where “The Sopranos” was shot, Gandolfini was recalled Thursday with mixed emotions: a global star who made their communities famous, but sometimes at the expense of their reputations.

Vito Mazza, who was busily preparing for an Italian-American festival in Elizabeth this weekend, said the actor had local credibility.

“He was as Jersey as it gets, through and through,” he said.

The “Sopranos” star was born and raised in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University. His character has become an indelible part of the state’s global image, as much a part of New Jersey culture as tolled highways, smokestacks and crooked politicians.