Isoldi said he wasn’t wild about the title at first but he’s accepted it.
“I didn’t like it to be honest but I am a godfather to some kids and a godfather to my household,” he said. “I guess they picked that name from what they’ve seen and it fits whatever they’re doing.”
What they’re doing is attempting to create a reality TV version of “The Sopranos” complete with a character named Junior, Mr. Isoldi’s father-in-law, just like “The Sopranos’” Uncle Junior (“His name was Junior way before the show,” Mr. Isoldi said). “Godfather of Pittsburgh” also employs visual cues, including the Isoldi’s boat the Ba-da Bing, which has the same name as the strip club Tony Soprano owned.
“That came way before ‘The Sopranos,’” Isoldi said. “It’s just a saying people used. We thought it was funny on the boat and next thing we know, ‘The Sopranos’ came out.”
Isoldi’s primary business featured in “Godfather of Pittsburgh” is Club Erotica in McKees Rocks, which he said he opened in 1993 (yet another “Sopranos” similarity). The idea for a reality show came up when the 2012 Ving Rhames movie “Mafia” – I hadn’t heard of it being filmed in Pittsburgh either – shot some scenes at Club Erotica.
“Three or four years ago they were shooting some kind of movie and [someone working on the film] was talking to my sister, who was working there, and asked if I’d be interested and she made the introduction,” Isoldi said. “It took a while for me to talk my wife into it because we’re pretty private.”
Mario Signore, the cinematographer on “Mafia,” is now an executive producer on “Godfather of Pittsburgh,” which Isoldi said was filmed in bits and pieces over several years as producers made pilots to try to sell the show to networks (this explains the presence of Taverna 19 in the Strip, which has been closed for some time, though Isoldi still owns real estate in the Strip). Once A&E picked up the program earlier this year, more filming was done.
Although he was wary at first, Isoldi said he saw starring in a reality show as a good business move.
“We are getting paid but it’s also about the marketing of your own businesses,” he said, and he’s not just talking about Club Erotica. “Other things are in the works that I’ve been involved in which you haven’t seen. They’ll come down the road and it’s something I’m doing regardless of where the show takes me but if it’s on the show I’m sure it would help.”
Isoldi, 48, and his family live in the Nevillewood development in Presto and the series jumps back and forth between Isoldi’s business dealings and his family, including wife Carla and his three sons.
The youngest, 8-year-old Romeo, isn’t featured much in the premiere episode, but there’s conflict between Isoldi and his oldest son, Enzo, who graduated this year from Chartiers Valley High School, over whether Enzo will attend college.
Middle son, Adolfo, 11, is a budding businessman who wears a fedora and runs Isoldi’s limo business. Isoldi said the fedora was not an affectation added by “Godfather” producers.
“He has many hats,” Isoldi said. “He’s not like a normal 11 year old. He’s very GQ, very stylish. He has his own office and he tries to copy everything I do with the office.”
With all the “Sopranos” references in “Godfather of Pittsburgh,” one wonders, what Mr. Isoldi thought of the heralded HBO series?
“I thought it was very entertaining but you’ve got to realize, it’s a TV show,” he said.
Did he think it was accurate?
“I wouldn’t know,” he said, offering a reminder: “I’m not in that business.”