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Food on Film: The Best New York Restaurant Scenes in Cinema
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Food on Film: The Best New York Restaurant Scenes in Cinema

Picture of Harriet Hu
Updated: 30 December 2016
For cinephiles and foodies alike, here is a list of quintessentially New York dining establishments featured in classic New York films, from The Godfather, to When Harry Met Sally.

Despite being one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, New York City continues to attract the highest calibre of artistic talent due to its reputation as the cultural capital of the world. There are an estimated 500 galleries of all sizes in New York City and over 2,000 arts and cultural organisations.

Due to its iconic status, countless television shows and films have been set in New York, adding to this city’s allure. Whilst major studio productions continue to be based in Hollywood, New York has become a capital of independent filmmaking, having produced the likes of Woody Allen and, most recently, the young Lena Dunham of Tiny Furniture and Girls fame.

New York is also known as a gastronomic hub, with a huge variety of cuisines on offer due to its large immigrant population. From humble street food to haute cuisine, bagels to baozi, New York City has something for all appetites, as is evident from these classic films, all of which depict unique New York restaurants.

Katz’s Delicatessen – When Harry Met Sally

Katz’s Deli, and the phrase ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ were immortalised after this memorable scene from When Harry Met Sally. Many years on, Katz’s Diner continues to attract long queues of camera-toting tourists keen to experience their own piece of movie history.Katz’s Deli, however, is legitimately worth the attention, with its kosher-style fare, in particular its pastrami sandwiches and hot dogs, considered amongst New York’s best.

Lanza’s – Manhattan Murder Mystery

Most of Woody Allen’s best-known films are set in New York, and each one can be considered a love letter to his home city. In Allen’s films, restaurants and bars are the place where friends meet, relationships develop and much of the witty dialogue, which has come to characterise Woody films, takes place.

In this famous scene from Manhattan Murder Mystery, the principal characters solve the murder case over some bottles of wine at Lanza’s. Open since 1904, Lanza’s remains popular amongst locals, celebrities and tourists for its traditional Italian menu.

21 Club – Rear Window

Often known simply as ’21’, this legendary restaurant and former Prohibition-era speakeasy included a secret wine cellar, which was accessed through a hidden door in a brick wall that opened into the basement of the building next door. These days, this secret area has been renovated into a separate section for private parties.

21 Club has been a favourite of some of the world’s most influential people; every president since Franklin Roosevelt (except George W. Bush) has dined there. According to their website, the restaurant once hosted Groucho Marx, who famously ordered one bean, before sending it back to the kitchen declaring it ‘undercooked.’

In Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Grace Kelly’s character has a waiter from ’21’ deliver dinner to a recovering James Stewart at his apartment.

Lenny’s Pizza – Saturday Night Fever

No New York food list could be complete without a mention of pizza. Lenny’s Pizza is the location where John Travolta’s character stops for ‘Two, two, lemme get two slices,’ before continuing to strut down the sidewalk to the tune of Staying Alive. At the time of filming, this Brooklyn location was inhabited by a largely Italian population, though through subsequent waves of immigration, the area is today home to a largely Latino and Asian population.

Lenny’s Pizza remains at the same location today, its interiors proudly plastered with John Travolta memorabilia.

Louis’ Restaurant – The Godfather

In this Coppola-directed classic, the presence of food enhances the plotline and highlights the ethnicity and culture of its principal players.

Often considered one of the greatest scenes in this film, Louis’ Restaurant is where young Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) kills rival gangster Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and corrupt police captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). The scene is an excellent example of Coppola’s masterful direction, with clever sound design and subtle acting perfectly combined to convey the tension in this famous scene.

The restaurant in which this scene takes place was in fact called ‘Luna Restaurant’, located at Williamsbridge, Bronx 3531 White Plains Road. Though the restaurant no longer exists, The Godfather fans still enjoy making the pilgrimage to the site where this restaurant formerly existed.