Family members, fellow actors and other loved ones embraced as the funeral procession made its way to the side entrance of Manhattan's Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, one of the largest churches in the world.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was among the attendees, along with actor Alec Baldwin and many of Gandolfini's fellow "Sopranos" castmates. The creator of the show, David Chase, remembered him as an actor who had brought a key element to mob boss Tony Soprano: Tony's inner child-like quality.
Even though Gandolfini was indisputably a formidable man both on and off the screen, Chase also saw him as a boy - "sad, amazed, confused and loving," he summed up, addressing his subject: "You could see it in your eyes. And that's why you are a great actor."
Susan Aston, who for decades was Gandolfini's dialogue coach and collaborator, spoke of how he wrestled to find truth in his performances.
"He worked hard," she said. "He was disciplined. He studied his roles and did his homework."
The 51-year-old actor died of a heart attack last week while vacationing with his 13-year-old son in Italy. The sudden death left those who knew him feeling a loss.
The actor's widow, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, also spoke at the ceremony, as did longtime friend Thomas Richardson, who affectionately described Gandolfini as a man "who hugged too tight and held too long."
Broadway theaters paid tribute by dimming their lights briefly Wednesday night. Gandolfini was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 as an actor in "God of Carnage."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.