The Cinematic Side of NYC
Each of these fun half-day itineraries captures the spirit and subculture of a favorite movie set in the Big Apple: "The Devil Wears Prada," "You've Got Mail," "West Side Story," "The Godfather," and "Working Girl."
Recharge a few blocks east with frothy espresso drinks and decadent cakes at bustling Cafe Lalo. The European-style café has exposed-brick walls, framed vintage ads, and huge windows through which Fox spies Shopgirl as she waits to meet NYC152 for the first time, with a rose and a tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice.
Something extra: The movie's literary agents, book lovers, and store owners mingle at places like Symphony Space, where affordable arts programming includes star-studded readings. The annual Ulysses marathon for Bloomsday returns on June 16 with a cast of nearly 100. —Kate Appleton
WEST SIDE STORY
On-screen: Released in 1961, this modern retelling of Romeo and Juliet has sizzling song-and-dance sequences and passionate altercations between the rival Jets and Sharks gangs. Maria (Natalie Wood), a Shark's sister, and Tony (Richard Beymer), a Jet, fall in star-crossed love on the city's West Side before Tony is killed in a gang fight. The movie was based on the Broadway musical about mounting tensions as Puerto Ricans flooded into the neighborhood during the Great Migration of the 1950s.
Starring you: Shake it like the Shark girls, led by the fiery Anita, in the movie's rooftop rendition of "America" by taking a salsa class held at Chelsea Studios. Dance On 2 Studio offers classes most weeknights and weekend afternoons ($12 per person). You don't need a partner to learn basic turn patterns in these fast-moving, upbeat classes with 18 to 25 other first-time students.
Keep up the pace by speed walking (it's New York!) 11 blocks south to refuel at La Taza de Oro. Wolf down Puerto Rican specialties that change daily, like mofongo, a meat-and-plantains dish, and goat stew, all served with a heaping portion of rice and beans. Grab a bright-red stool at the counter for ample chat time (in both English and Spanish) with the cooking staff. The diner is humble but cheerfully decorated with bright-yellow formica tabletops, small paintings, and colorful masks from Puerto Rico on the walls.
With your belly full, jump in a cab and head uptown to West Side Story's newly launched Broadway revival (get tickets at broadwaywestsidestory.com), directed by the musical's author, Arthur Laurents. The show has undergone an overhaul, with a more realistic (read: violent) story and Spanish interspersed in the dialogue and lyrics. Or attend 2008 Tony winner In The Heights, which explores three days in the life of a Dominican-American Washington Heights neighborhood.
Don't want to see theatre? Spend the night at venerable Greenwich Village Latin club S.O.B.'s, which hosts Salsa Nights on Fridays, with a free lesson at 7 p.m. The crowd can get as wild as the Jets and Sharks do during the "Mambo" gym scene, when Tony and Maria first meet and fall madly, disastrously in love. Here's hoping your night turns out better.
Something extra: The National Puerto Rican Day Parade along 5th Avenue is June 14 this year. Expect marching bands, cheerleading troupes, and elaborate floats in the annual event attended by as many as 2 million people. El Museo del Barrio, just off Central Park at 104th Street, is currently closed for construction but will reopen this fall. The museum has 8,000 works of art by Caribbean and Latin American artists. —JD Rinne
On-screen: At the wedding scene that opens Francis Ford Coppola's epic, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) has an iron grip on the family business. By film's end Vito has died of natural causes—the only natural death in a film full of rubouts—and his ruthless son Michael (Al Pacino) has succeeded him as an even more bloodthirsty don. Following the clan through weddings, baptisms, beatings, and murders shuttles viewers all over New York City—the movie made use of dozens of locations, but many were disguised or remade to fit the film's late 1940s period.
Starring you: Skip Manhattan's touristy Little Italy and take a quick subway ride to Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens, a neighborhood that retains its Italian roots even after decades of gentrification. Start with lunch at a longtime local fixture, the Marco Polo Ristorante, at the corner of Union and Court Streets. What Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) says of the Bronx restaurant where Michael kills a rival mobster applies here, too: it's "a small family place, good food, everyone minds his own business." Marco Polo's owner was sentenced late last year to six months' house arrest for helping launder money for the Gambino family—a nice touch of genuineness.