Being part of a mob crime family isn’t all kick-backs, drinks at the Bada Bing Club, and cushy no-show jobs. Instead, much like other criminal enterprises, there are actual rules that people have to follow.
After all, organized crime is called "organised" for a reason. Tony Soprano’s New Jersey crew have a lot of rules and codes to follow in order to get their illicit deeds done. Tony, the head of the DiMeo crime family, refers to the mob as a business, which makes sense. There’s a formal structure, with a hierarchy going from soldier to capo to boss. If you find yourself on the wrong side or annoying Tony, then there are serious consequences, which can often be harsh and somewhat permanent.
The Sopranos on HBO ushered in what has been called the golden age of television. Respected by critics and audiences alike for its sharp writing, fully-developed characters, and expertly crafted plot lines, The Sopranos quickly became a fan-favorite. In fact, the show was so successful than many believed that it was what would've been produced had Martin Scorsese decided to give up movie-making and concentrate on making high-quality television instead. The show opened the floodgates to the likes of The Wire and Deadwood, proving that there was an audience for adult television programming.
Like any other group in organized crime, Tony's work family had to follow some strict rules on a daily basis. With this list, we're taking a look at the regulations that the crew had to constantly obey.
With that said, here are the 20 Regulations Tony’s Work Family Is Forced To Obey On The Sopranos.
20 If you do the crime, you must do the time
Being a mobster engaged in criminal activities carries plenty of risks. One of the biggest is the threat of being incarcerated for long stretches of time. Tony Soprano’s cousin Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi) did a 17 year stretch for the armed hijacking of a truck. Tony was meant to join him on the job, but due to a panic attack, he failed to show up. Because of this, he tells Blundetto that he was mugged. Tony – who is secretly afraid of doing time – is wracked by guilt about what happened to his friend and cousin.
When Blundetto is released, he’s seemingly a reformed character, refusing Soprano’s offer to continue working for the DiMeo crime family. Unfortunately, things don’t go well for Blundetto and he is eventually whacked by the other Tony.
19 No unsanctioned hits
Hits have to be done with the full blessing of the head of the family – any other action could result in a loss of face and dire consequences. For example, just look at what happened to Tony Blundetto when he took things into his own hands.
The ban on unsanctioned hits extends to families that do business together. The DiMeo family has a long-standing partnership with the Lupertazzi crime family, especially capo Phil Leotardo. When Phil became de facto boss of the Lupertazzi, he started to get delusions of grandeur and eventually went too far when he whacked the captain of Tony’s top-earning crew, Vito Spatafore. Tony responded by hitting Phil financially and blowing up his wire room. Then, after a series of war councils, he had Phil whacked.
18 Respect your crew and your family
Throughout The Sopranos, Tony is continually torn by his desire for the family to become a more professional organization and his sudden outbursts. One thing that he expects from other members of the crime family is respect. He has even said that "Those that want respect, give respect."
Since Tony is the head of a crime family, he needs those around him to show him respect, whether this be from Chris or old-school gangster Richie Aprile Jr. Of course, as the head of an actual family, he also tries to be a good role model for his children, even if he doesn’t always succeed in this. Respect is a two-way street, however, and Tony is continuously disgusted by some of the obnoxious characters in the show, such as the bullying no-class Ralph and the vain and patronizing Feech.
17 No leaving the family
We don't see many people retire from organized crime in The Sopranos. Leaving the DiMeo family either means being sent to the big house or leaving in a hearse. According to Tony, “Once you’re into this family, there’s no getting out.” Crime is part of the Soprano's blood. Giovanni Franci "Johnny Boy" Soprano was the former captain of the DiMeo family. Following his demise, Tony stepped up to become the next boss, with Uncle Junior briefly serving as the head of the family.
Other members have been associated with the family for long periods of time, stretching back decades in the case of Sil and Paulie. In the first season alone, 14 members of various families get "whacked," which shows us that there is no real exit. Even those who try to go straight eventually get pulled back into the life of crime, often only to meet unfortunate ends (for example, Tony Bludetto).
16 If you snitch, you get whacked
Salvatore Bonpensiero was one of Tony’s closest friends. However, despite this, when he became a rat, he still had to be dealt with. It’s a tragic story. Salvatore was a kind-hearted man who doted on his wife and three kids. However, the bread he earned from the mob was not enough to put his children through college and he started dealing substances on the side.
While Tony, who was then his capo, and acting boss Jackie Aprile Sr. knew about this and tried to help, Salvatore kept dealing. Eventually, he was caught by the Feds, who gave him a decision: either rat other members out or face 30 years in prison. Unfortunately, Salvatore chose the latter option, which led to him getting whacked by Tony, Paulie, and Sil in the second season. This continued to haunt Tony throughout the series.
15 Your work family comes first
Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo) had long been targeted as a potential rat by the FBI due to her relationship with the volatile Chris. Initially, the Feds tried to ensnare her by sending Deborah Ciccerone to befriend Adrianna. However, this blew up in their faces when Chris made a pass at Deborah.
The Feds were more successful when they used Adrianna’s distribution of banned substances and her involvement in the cover up of illegal activities at the club to get her to become a mole. Eventually, Adriana confessed her involvement to Chris, pleading with him to join her in a witness protection program. Unfortunately for Adriana, Chris informed Tony, which led to her untimely demise at the hands of Silvio Dante.
14 Don’t hurt animals, especially horses
Despite gorging himself on red meat, Tony Soprano loves animals. He’s flown off of the handle before because of the mistreatment of dogs. However, when it comes to horses,Tony can be especially passionate.
During the course of the show, Tony becomes very close to Ralph Cifaretto’s race horse Pie-oh-my, offering Ralph racing advice and even stepping in to settle the horse’s vet bills when Ralph comes up short. When Pie-oh-my passes away in a stable fire, Tony suspects foul play and believes that Ralph started the blaze to collect the sky-high insurance pay out. When Tony confronts Ralph about this, only one of the men emerge alive – and it isn't Ralph.
13 Extra-marital affairs stay secret
Tony Soprano loves his wife Carmela. Sure, their relationship can be tempestuous, but Carmela is always by Tony’s side. Although Carmela knows that Tony works for the mob, they rarely discus it. Despite espousing family values at home, Tony is a hypocrite. In fact, he leaves a trail of mistresses, or goomahs, wherever he goes.
While this is an accepted norm for mob members, Carmela reacts with understandable fury when she finds out that Tony has been unfaithful and has slept with both Irina and Svetlana. Tony is soon kicked out of the house. While mistresses are the norm for Tony's work family, they cannot be mentioned at home. Because of this, Tony has made it clear that his crew can't talk about his extra-martial affairs around his wife.
12 It doesn’t matter who you are, Tony is the boss
Whether you’re Tony Soprano’s consigliere or just a loyal foot soldier, one thing is certain: you respect the head of the family. Unfortunately, not everyone abides by this rule. Take the case of Feetch La Manna (Robert Loggia), for example. As an original gangster who became a made-man in Italy, Feetch came to the U.S. in the ‘50s, rising to the rank of capo with his fingers in both bookmaking and cards.
When Feetch is released from prison after a 30 year stretch, he wants back in the game. Despite the fact that Tony is the boss of North Jersey, it’s clear that Feetch still considers him as a kid and therefore doesn’t give Tony his due respect. When Feetch goes against Tony's wishes one too many times, Tony sets him up and the old mobster is quickly sent back to the big house.
11 There are always consequences
The New Jersey crime family lives by a specific code. Whenever this code is broken, there have to be consequences- and these consequences are often brutal, as Tony himself explains, “There’s an old ... saying: you f*** up once, you lose two teeth.”
Examples include Ralph’s demise after the stable fire, the whacking of snitches Salvatore and Adrianna, and Tony taking out a snitch when he visits an upstate college with Meadow. Jackie Aprile Jr. is whacked by Janice after mistreating her, Burt Gervasi is whacked by Silvio for trying to organize a coup and, well, the list goes on. In short, for every transgression or betrayal in The Sopranos, the consequences are often harsh, permanent, and should serve as a reminder to anyone who wants to go up against the DiMeo family.
10 Don’t reveal family secrets
While it’s a given that you don’t divulge mob secrets to the cops, the same also goes for revealing state secrets to other crime families. When Paulie’s reputation starts to sink following the arrival of top-earner Ralph, Paulie starts to consider himself side-lined. Of course, Paulie doesn’t do himself any favours by advocating to whack Ralph for no real reason.
Put out, Paulie starts to communicate with Lupertazzi underboss Johnny Sacks under the impression that he might be able to join their crew. After revealing several DiMeo family secrets, Paulie is dropped by the Lupertazzi crew and goes back to Tony. While it takes some time, Paulie eventually weasels his way back into Tony’s good books in order to become the DiMeo family underboss after Silvio is incapacitated.
9 Never betray the boss
Loyalty is everything in the DiMeo family. Because of this, there are harsh penalties for those who betray the family. For example, just look at Adrianna and Salvatore, who meet their ends after becoming rats. When it comes to affairs, this is also true.
Naples-born gangster Furio Giunta comes to work for Tony Soprano as part of an international car theft ring. Furio proves himself to be a fearless enforcer, delivering beat downs on anyone who owes Tony money. After he comes into contact with Tony’s wife Carmela, the two develop an unrequited love. Carmela sees Furio as a sensitive man compared to the oafish Tony, and it is clear that there is some serious tension between them. Rather than betraying his boss, though, Furio decides to go back to Italy.
8 Be there for other members
When you are in the DiMeo crime family, you are expected to be there for the other members of your family no matter how crazy, out of control, or volatile they are. For example, Tony is always there for Chris, even as his nephew’s life deteriorates through a combination of bad decisions and substance abuse issues.
When Chris’s addictive tendencies go too far, the other members of the crew hold an intervention. Things doesn’t exactly go as planned when Chris goads them into delivering a physical beating, which results in a hairline fracture and a visit to the emergency room. Of course, this all ends in tragedy when Tony puts Chris out of his misery for good following a car crash.
7 Be supportive of your boss’s therapy sessions
Being the head of the New Jersey mob isn't easy. Because of this, it calls for Tony Soprano to put on a macho face for the public, with little time for sentimentality or reflection. This puts a lot of stress on Tony, who often expresses his anger with furious outbursts.
However, Tony is also prone to panic attacks, and feeling self-doubt and guilt. To help, he seeks the services of psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, in a series of therapy sessions that underpin the show. Seeing a shrink isn’t exactly the norm for a feared crime lord, however. Tony finds support in level-headed Silvio, who tells his boss: “This thing of ours… way it’s goin’… it’d be better if we could admit to each other these painful, stressful times.”
6 Always kick up
In the mafia, you always kick up a cut of the proceeds from any criminal activity to the capo and those above you. The head always gets a taste of the action, or, in Godfather speak, the head always gets to "wet his beak."
Sometimes, this doesn’t always come to pass – after all, we are dealing with mobsters here, not saints. Furio, for all of his virtue and loyalty, always took his own cut of the action. However, this was nothing compared to Peter Paul "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico). As someone in Tony’s inner-circle, Paulie is infamous for being tight-fisted and constantly suspected of not "kicking up" the proper amount. While Tony always suspects Paulie’s tightness, it takes acting capo Silvio to finally confront Paulie and force him to put in the full amount after Paulie pulls off an elaborate heist.
5 Don’t push another member too far
Being in the DiMeo crime family involves dealing with a lot of different characters, personalities, and egos – most of which are volatile, as organized crime very rarely attracts level-headed individuals. One of the most volatile relationships in the show is the on between Chris and Paulie. As members of Tony’s inner-circle, you’d expect the two of them to get along for the good of the boss and wider family.
However, the two bicker non-stop, especially with Chris’s self-destructive impulses and Paulie’s "quirky" and downright delusional behaviour. Things finally came to a head when Tony sent the pair to collect money on behalf of Silvio from a mobster from Russia. This takes them to snowy Pine Barrens, where, after a series of angry confrontations, the two botch the job and end up nearly getting frost-bitten and wandering in the snow.
4 Always show that you love your mother
One rule that members of Tony's work family have to follow involves loving and respecting their mothers, no matter how awful they are. While us non-mob members probably take this granted, most of us probably don’t have mothers who are plotting to whack them.
Tony’s mom Livia was a pessimist and a narcissist who resented her son for putting her in the Green Grove nursing home. During the first season, she tries to manipulate Junior into putting a hit on her own son and reveals that Tony is seeing a shrink. Eventually, Tony is pushed too far and tries to seek revenge. After a stroke, she passed away in her sleep. Sadly, this plot development was precipitated due to actor Nancy Marchand’s passing in 2000.
3 Don’t reminisce about the past
Gangster movies like to dwell on the past – there’s ‘50s New York in Goodfellas, the high-end glamour of ‘70s Vegas in Casino, and post-World War II in The Godfather. All of these movies come complete with stylish costumes and chart topping songs from those eras. Likewise, the mobsters of New Jersey can often be seen extolling the virtues of past achievements, whether that’s visiting Naples to connect with family in Italy or old school mobsters like Ralph.
However, this isn't the case for Tony, who tells a nostalgic Paulie and Beansie that “’Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation” while in Florida for business. After all, you can't be the head of a crime family if you’re constantly looking back on the glory days.
2 You must enjoy gangster movies
One thing's for certain with Tony's crew: it helps if you like gangster movies – especially The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Goodfellas. Characters like Silvio continually quote these movies, even including lines from The Godfather Part 3, which the New Jersey mob all agree is not up to snuff.
There’s are also plenty of onscreen homages to these movies. For example, Tony buys a carton of orange juice before a car-jacking (oranges always foreshadowed trouble in The Godfather), Paulie’s car horn plays The Godfather theme song, and several offers that cannot be refused. Linda Bracco (Dr Melfi), Michael Imperioli (Chis) and Tony Sirico (Paulie) also all had roles in Goodfellas. In fact, 27 actors from Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob classic appear in The Sopranos.
1 If you know the rules, you must obey them
One rule that is pretty-much self-explanatory is: “If you can quote the rules, then you can f***in' obey ’em. You hear me?” While this covers much of the mob code that the DiMeo family live by, it is said by Tony to Paulie in the show.
When Chris and Sil comfort Ralph after his kid winds up in the hospital, Paulie fails to show the proper respect. Soon, we find out that Paulie dislikes Ralph because of the trouble he causes and because of one particular incident at a nursing home, despite Ralph’s position as a top earner. When Paulie suggests whacking Ralph, Tony reminds Paulie that it is his decisions, not Paulie's, when it comes to sanctioning hits.
Are there any other rules that Tony's work family has to follow in The Sopranos? Let us know in the comments!