STARRING YOU

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."

By , Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 4:06 PM

The Costume Institute's latest exhibition includes 1970s garments by Yves Saint Laurent and Halston; get inspired to see high fashion by watching The Devil Wears Prada
The Costume Institute's latest exhibition includes 1970s garments by Yves Saint Laurent and Halston; get inspired to see high fashion by watching The Devil Wears Prada (Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
On-screen: Fashion turns ugly in this 2006 adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-selling novel about Runway, a fashion magazine loosely based on New York's own Vogue. The deliciously evil editor in chief, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), forces her new assistant, Andy (Anne Hathaway), to jump through a series of ever-higher hoops—no easy feat in the job's requisite four-inch heels.

Starring you: The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the perfect starting point for couture inspiration. And now you can ogle more apparel than ever: The Brooklyn Museum recently gave the Met its entire 23,500-item costume collection, representing some of the highlights of late-19th and mid-20th century American fashion.

Once you've had your fill, catch the 6 train down to 59th Street and walk two blocks over to Madison Avenue. Hang out with modern-day fashionistas trolling Prada, Chanel, and Hermès boutiques, then fuel up for an afternoon of power window-shopping with a latte at Starbucks on 57th Street—and be thankful you're not fetching it for anyone. Holster your credit card and hold out for nearby sample sales, where designers unload late-season styles and runway samples at a fraction of the cost. New York magazine's listings can tip you off to finds like a recent Betsey Johnson sale with dresses from $50.

End the day in the more fashion-forward West Village at Magnolia Bakery, where Andy gets her boyfriend a chocolate buttermilk cupcake topped with sugary vanilla frosting ($2.50). The chocolate buttermilk's good, but with lines this long the creamy banana pudding topped with classic vanilla wafers is better worth your wait ($4.50).

Something extra: From The Princess Diaries to Prada, Anne Hathaway is queen of the makeover transformation. To see how far a little grooming can go for your own look, mention Budget Travel at Aura Wellness Spa through August 31 for $35 off a 90-minute detoxifying facial to prevent blemishes and signs of aging ($115, usually $150). Plus, when BT readers book this facial promotion, they'll receive a $25 gift certificate for other Aura treatments valid through the end of the year. Alison Rohrs

YOU'VE GOT MAIL
On-screen: In this romantic comedy, chain-bookstore developer Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and independent-bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) compete for the loyalties of Upper West Side readers—while unwittingly falling in love as they trade online messages under the screen names NYC152 and Shopgirl. In early e-mails, the two bond over a shared love for New York as the camera lovingly zooms in on the leafy blocks of the West 70s and 80s.

Starring you: Set out from the American Museum of Natural History and stroll west along 80th Street to admire rows of stately, one-of-a-kind brownstones like Kelly's, with eye-catching moldings, bay windows, faux balconies, and flower urns.

At Broadway, make a beeline for beloved gourmet food shop Zabar's, an Upper West Side institution where Fox and Kelly bump into each other. Browse through aisles lavishly stocked with marinated olives, potent cheeses, and hand-sliced fish. Pick up a box of apricot-and-raspberry rugelach and then cross the street to Westsider Books & Records, one of a dwindling number of independent bookstores in the city. Gingerly climb the old-fashioned rolling ladders to nab a book from ceiling-high shelves.

You're set with a snack and some brain food, so enter Riverside Park at 83rd Street to claim a bench overlooking the Hudson. It's here that Fox walks his dog, vying for space with joggers, cyclists, and hyperactive kids. If you head north along the Serpentine Promenade, you'll reach the tiny garden where he and Kelly kiss as the credits roll.

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

THE GODFATHER
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.

After your meal, head a few blocks north to Court Pastry Shop, a standout on a street famed for its Sicilian bakeries and other food stores. Back in early 1900s, this area had one of the largest concentrations of Italians in the United States. Be sure to "take the cannoli," as gangster Peter Clemenza memorably instructs his men after a successful hit on a double-crossing associate.

Then stroll toward Carroll Park, wandering along quiet brownstone blocks; keep your eye out for statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints in many of the small front yards (Court and Henry Streets, from 1st Place to 4th Place, are particularly lovely). Settle into Brooklyn Social (335 Smith St.), a bar whose furnishing are holdovers from its days as a members-only, men-only Sicilian hangout, and order the Society Riposto (vodka, tangerine slices, and fresh rosemary)—named in honor of the original club. Some Brooklyn bars were indeed fronts for the mob, but most were little more than laid-back places for members to unwind over cards, a glass of wine, and lots of conversation. Now there's an offer that's hard to refuse.

Something extra: The Dicapo Opera Theatre, a small company that performs in the bottom level of a church on Manhattan's Upper East Side, mounts a mix of classic (Le Nozze di Figaro) and newly commissioned works (Sárka) from fall through spring. To keep that Godfather vibe going strong, seek out something dark and bloody. John Rambow

WORKING GIRL
On-screen: Night-school grad Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) has an intense work ethic, but with her Staten Island accent and hair-sprayed bangs, she can't climb beyond the secretarial level in the mergers-and-acquisitions world. When her new boss, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), seems to take her ideas seriously, Tess is thrilled—until she finds out Katharine is passing them off as her own. Indignant, Tess seizes the initiative and arranges a meeting with Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), an executive from another firm who can turn her idea into a business deal. One new do and one fancy wardrobe later, Tess and Jack are on the road to success in business—and love.

Starring you: There's nothing special about the office buildings where Tess spends her days, but there's a lot to see in the financial district, where she works. Pass bankers in power suits as you stroll down Wall Street, which has been pedestrian-only since 9/11, and stop near Broad Street to shake your fist at the New York Stock Exchange and its grand Corinthian columns.

Lunch with the moneyed set at Zaitzeff—the burgers are made with all-natural beef, the fries are hand-cut, and the cookies are fresh-baked. There's nothing wrong with the fancy half-pound Kobe beef burger ($15.50), but the standard sirloin is just as tasty, and cheaper too—something we're guessing those left on Wall Street appreciate more than ever (sirloin burger $8.75).

To dress like Tess (the upwardly mobile version—minus her 1980s shoulder pads, please), set aside a few hours to scour local department store Century 21, famous for selling high-end labels at rock-bottom prices.

Then walk your confident self a few blocks south to the Staten Island Ferry, which departs regularly from South Ferry Station. Commuters like Tess take the free 25-minute ride to work every day, but it's also a great way to see the city skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island. Hop on about an hour before sunset. Grab a soft pretzel and a beer from the snack bar, find your sweet spot on the multi-decked vessel, and watch the show unfold—then hitch a ride on the next ferry back as darkness falls and Manhattan's skyscrapers light up.

Something extra: Trinity Church sits where Wall Street and Broadway meet. The Gothic-style 1846 building seems small amid the towering office buildings. The church is on the National Register of Historic Places; the original burial ground includes the grave of Alexander Hamilton. —Beth Collins