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HomeEntertainmentLife’s a rocky beach: Inside Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ Giancola’s ‘Jersey Shore’ return

Life’s a rocky beach: Inside Sammi ‘Sweetheart’ Giancola’s ‘Jersey Shore’ return

A miracle occurred Wednesday in Seaside Heights, NJ. 

For the first time in years, the cast of “Jersey Shore” descended upon the town’s boardwalk, a span of the Garden State beach that feels like holy ground — with their names, faces and iconic catchphrases emblazoned on T-shirts, towels, magnets and more merchandise as if they were canonized saints. 

When beachgoers caught wind that most of the OG crew had gathered at the Shore Store — the cast’s place of work on the early seasons — for a Page Six photo shoot, they came in droves to worship their fist-pumping idols. 

“It’s crazy — so much nostalgia,” an astonished Vinny Guadagnino told Page Six after a crowd of fans amassed outside the souvenir shop. Local police eventually arrived as backup to protect the reality stars. 

“This is a homecoming,” he added, smiling at his old boss, Shore Store owner Danny Merk, who appeared both bewildered and amused by the chaos outside. 

“And Sammi’s back in all of this, which is the craziest part.”

"Jersey Shore Family Vacation" cast at Shore Store
“This is a homecoming,” Vinny said when the “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” cast showed up for a photo shoot for The Post.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

After an 11-year hiatus from the franchise, Sammi “Sweetheart” Giancola finally decided to take part in “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” for Season 6B (premiering Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV). 

In 2018, six years after the original series concluded, Guadagnino, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, Deena Cortese, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio and Ronnie Ortiz-Magro, Giancola’s ex, signed back on for the reboot. (Angelina Pivarnick also eventually came back full-time.) 

Giancola, 36, opted not to join, letting viewers know that she wanted to “avoid potentially toxic situations.” Her tumultuous relationship with Ortiz-Magro, 37, underlined her first round of the unscripted drama.

Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola
“I know there was drama and craziness and not all great times for me back then, but I’m hoping maybe this time around will be a little bit different,” Giancola told Page Six.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

But now Giancola is ready for a new beginning. 

“I know there was drama and craziness and not all great times for me back then, but I’m hoping maybe this time around will be a little bit different,” she told Page Six. “I’m more mature and I want to handle situations differently than when I was 22 years old.”  

Giancola, who now shines in the center of the updated “JSFV” promo art, said she “missed my old friends and the experience” of filming. “But I hadn’t really spoken to anybody in a long time. So it was definitely nerve wracking.”

She’ll stick with it for “however long everybody does it,” but knowing there is freedom to escape is a relief — especially now that Ortiz-Magro has assumed a reduced role after taking a break to focus on his mental health and sobriety. 

Angelina Pivarnick
“I like that I was actually able to pull it off and everybody else couldn’t,” Pivarnick said of recruiting Giancola to return to the show.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

“I’m just hoping that all goes well this time around. And if it doesn’t,” she said with a laugh, “I’ll just leave again.”

Giancola came back into the fold via castmate Pivarnick, who encouraged the Sweetheart Coast boutique owner to consider a return. Strategically, she used Ortiz-Magro’s then-intact pause from production as a selling point. 

“I like that I was actually able to pull it off and everybody else couldn’t,” Pivarnick, 37, boasted, acknowledging frequent and largely ignored attempts from cast members and producers to persuade Giancola to come back. “She and I always had a bond.” 

Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
“I’m not the type of woman to compete against my friends by opening other stores,” Polizzi said of rumors she and Giancola were in retail competition.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

Pivarnick revealed that she was instructed to keep Giancola’s advent “top secret” before MTV broke the news in March.

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“The producers really were amazing about not telling anybody,” recalled Pivarnick, who was delighted by the cast’s aggregate shock when Giancola arrived to Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains. 

“Everyone’s mouths were on the floor.” 

However, unbeknownst to Giancola and Pivarnick, Ortiz-Magro had also quietly reached out to Sorrentino, 41, expressing his wish to reconcile with the group after an extended period of estrangement.

Ronnie Ortiz-Magro on the red carpet
Unbeknownst to Giancola, her ex Ronnie Ortiz-Magro had also quietly reached out about reconciling with the group after an extended period of estrangement.
Getty Images for MTV

“Ron eventually comes in and then ‘The Mediation’ had to show up,” joked Sorrentino, who was happy to coach Ortiz-Magro through the first steps of his reprisal.

“My specialty is dealing with addiction, dealing with mental health, dealing with making mistakes in your life and trying to mount a comeback,” the “Reality Check” author elaborated. In 2019, he served prison time for tax evasion and waged a hard-won battle with substance abuse. “So I definitely tried to take the lead during during that particular moment for everyone, just to make sure that we’re all in a good spot.”

DelVecchio, 43 — who, like Ortiz-Magro, was unable to participate in the Seaside shoot — told Page Six over email, “I just know [he and Giancola] had a lot to catch up on to say the least.”

Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino
“My specialty is dealing with addiction, dealing with mental health, dealing with making mistakes in your life and trying to mount a comeback,” Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino said of helping to orchestrate Ortiz-Magro’s show return.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

It remains unclear if Giancola and Ortiz-Magro reunited while filming the forthcoming installment — which took place in the Poconos, Orlando and Atlantic City — but executive producer SallyAnn Salsano teased “pretty intense” scenes addressing the prospect of a crossover. 

“You have to wait and see, but you will see some stuff. It’s not like Snuffleupagus,” she said — using a “Sesame Street” reference to assure that the issue is not treated like a figment of fans’ imaginations.  

Salsano emphasized that she understands there is an expectation from “Jersey Shore” devotees for a reckoning of sorts.  

Vinny Guadagnino
Guadagnino’s back — as is his sidekick Pauly D.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

That conversation on camera?” she said of telling the cast about Ortiz-Magro’s possible return. “Everybody’s involved and it’s real. We handle this question on camera because not even I knew how it was going to go when it came up that he may come back or come visit.”

Salsano, a reality TV vet who’s also helmed “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila,” “Party Down South” and the succession of “Jersey Shore” spinoffs, said that efforts were made so that Giancola felt “comfy” as her re-entry converged with Ortiz-Magro’s. 

Still, Giancola said she “never knew what to expect. Every day I’m like, ‘What the hell is next in this house?’ There’s always something.”

Jenni "JWoww" Farley
“We were hurt and confused,” Farley said of being iced out by Giancola. “But she owned it and we’re so happy to have her back and be able to move on from that.”
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

Giancola had current beau Justin May to help her maneuver through any surprises, onscreen or off. The former Karma nightclub employee — who first noticed Giancola as cameras followed her inside the now-closed venue more than a decade ago — filmed portions of “Family Vacation.” 

“My man is so excited for me,” Giancola said of May’s reaction to her reclamation of the spotlight. “He’s so supportive. And he fit in well.”

Cortese, 36, observed that a “new Sam” has emerged. 

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“Sam is so much lighter and just so free. Sam [has] always been stuck to Ron and had a heavy weight on her. I felt like she was in a very bad place for a long time,” she said. “Everybody watching is going to be introduced to an entirely new person.”

Deena Cortese
Giancola said she considers her female castmates, including Cortese (above) “sisters.”
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

Giancola’s new man and mindset have seemingly incited a degree of indifference aout the past. 

“[Ortiz-Magro is] like a co-worker at this point,” she said.   

But everyone else feels like “family,” Giancola insisted. She was eager to quell tension with Cortese, Polizzi, 35, and Farley, 37 — who she considers “sisters” — after a social media beef was blown out of proportion. 

Giancola admitted that it was “immature” to block and unfollow them when she chose to distance herself from the show in its initial revival.

“We were hurt and confused,” Farley said of being iced out. “But she owned it and we’re so happy to have her back and be able to move on from that.”

Nicole Polizzi's daughter, Giovanna, (left) and Jenni Farley's kids, Meilani and Greyson
Polizzi’s daughter, Giovanna, (left) and Farley’s kids, Meilani and Greyson, joined The Post’s photo shoot.
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

Polizzi and Giancola also put to rest any conflict over assumptions that the former copied the latter’s Sweetheart Coast store in Ocean City by launching brick-and-mortar Snooki Shops. 

“I’m not the type of woman to compete against my friends by opening other stores,” Polizzi said. “We had a nice conversation about it. No one was copying anyone. And we’re all allowed to open stores. Like, no one should be upset about that. It’s like little kid stuff.”

Focusing on “little kid”-style friction while raising actual little kids is tough, Farley admitted, although production has evolved to be more supportive for the cast’s many parents: Farley, Polizzi, Cortese, Sorrentino, Ortiz-Magro and DelVecchio. 

"Jersey Shore" cast in a hot tub
The cast in 2009.
Mtv/Kobal/Shutterstock

“My [children] are with me today,” said Farley, who beamed when her daughter Meilani, 9, and son Greyson, 7, joined the Shore Store shoot, adorably posing for photos alongside Polizzi’s 8-year-old daughter, Giovanna, with the adult cast 

“I love that I can take them to work and that it’s encouraged,” noted Farley, who shares her young ones with ex-husband Roger Mathews. “We get to bring them on trips with us and sometimes they pop up on camera. It’s cute.”

For her part, mom of three Polizzi — who shares Giovanna and sons Lorenzo, 10, and Angelo, 4, with husband Jionni LaValle — hopes more family content is captured for future episodes.

Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola
“I’m more mature and I want to handle situations differently than when I was 22 years old,” said Giancola (seen here in an old cast photo).
Mtv/Kobal/Shutterstock
Producer SallyAnn Salsano said there are “pretty intense” scenes addressing Ortiz-Magro and Giancola crossing paths.
Mtv/Kobal/Shutterstock

“We need to show more of that!” she exclaimed. “Like, haven’t people seen me fall down drunk off of wine enough?”

While the “Jersey Shore” family’s partying habits have collectively died down — “Hangovers hit different in your 30s,” Guadagnino lamented — the roommates are still capable of turning up like it’s 2009. 

“We’ve all changed and fans have seen that on ‘Jersey Shore Family Vacation.’ You know, we were hot young messes back in the day,” said Cortese, who shares sons CJ, 4, and Cameron, 2, with husband Chris Buckner. 

Nicole Polizzi and daughter Giovanna
Polizzi said she hopes there’s more family content on future episodes: “Like, haven’t people seen me fall down drunk off of wine enough?” 
Tamara Beckwith/NY POST

“We do have our s–t together a little more than we used to,” declared Cortese, the founding member of the reboot’s “Dirty Stay Out” posse, who prioritize booze over bedtime when cameras are up and childcare is secured. “But we’re still hot messes. Mom and dad hot messes.”

Additional reporting by Danny Murphy

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