Why the ‘Sopranos’ Creator Wanted a Do-Over on the ‘Commendatori’ Episode in Italy
Even on the best TV shows, there’s going to be misfires. What made HBO’s The Sopranos so great was there were so few bad episodes in the show’s very long (1999-2007) run. Out of 86 episodes, you can only point to a handful of duds.
For a lot of the show’s fans, the dream episodes were among the weakest of the bunch. “Chasing It,” a Season Six effort in which Vito Spatafore Jr. acts out and A.J. Soprano (Robert Iler) proposes marriage to his girlfriend, also won’t go down as the show’s best.
But it’s always interesting to hear what the production team thinks. In the eyes of Sopranos creator David Chase, an episode that didn’t work was “Commendatori,” which came early in the show’s second installment.
While the episode delivers some great comedic moments from Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico), Chase didn’t like the choices for one of the main characters and general direction of “Commendatori.”
Chase didn’t like the casting, especially with Annalisa.
If you read about The Sopranos, you’ll catch Chase expressing his dissatisfaction with “Commendatori” on a few occasions. In a New York Times interview published early in 2019, Chase said Italy “wasn’t our element. We really didn’t know what we were talking about.”
In an interview published in The Sopranos Sessions, Chase told Matt Zoller-Seitz and Alan Sepinwall he wanted to focus more on how the trip would be for Paulie, Tony (James Gandolfini), and the rest of the crew from North Jersey.
“In reality, those guys don’t really travel,” Chase said. “They don’t leave their neighborhoods. Maybe they go to Florida or Vegas.” Watching the group’s arrival at their Naples hotel — in which an employee addresses them as “commendatori,”impressing Paulie — you get a sense of what Chase had in mind.
Meanwhile, Chase didn’t like the way they used a sexy, younger actress (Sofia Milos) to play Annalisa, the wife of the acting boss. “I wasn’t happy with the cast,” Chase said in 2017. “Annalisa did not really seem like a mob housewife, or a mob wife.”
On the bright side, Chase added Federico Castellucio on the episode.
While you might agree that “Commendatori” missed its mark, it still packs some solid moments. The scene outside the restaurant, in which the Italian crew beats a teen, delivers a chilling image. And Paulie’s conversation with a bored Neapolitan prostitute offers up a good amount of laughs.
Still, maybe the show’s big net positive was adding Federico Castellucio, who played Furio, to the cast. Back home, Uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese) mentions Furio as their Italian contact, and then you watch him confidently in action shortly after the group’s arrival to Naples.
As part of a deal with Annalisa, Tony adds Furio to his Jersey crew. Castelluccio, who hadn’t acted much prior to “Commendatori,” would end up paying dividends for Chase in the coming years.
And for those wondering about Sopranos sequels, we’ll leave you with this: Furio never died on the show. Chase could give himself the chance to do it right a second time.