Donnie Brasco | 1997
Forget Scent of a Woman and the Oscar, this is Al Pacino’s best and most understated performance in years, as sad, middle-level mobster Lefty Ruggiero, who seals his own fate by vouching for young Brasco (Johnny Depp) who just happens to be undercover FBI agent Joe Pistone.
A completely unexpected little masterpiece from Brit director Mike Newell, previously responsible for the frankly snoozeworthy mummy movie The Awakening (with Charlton Heston) and the fluffy crowd-pleaser Four Weddings and a Funeral.
It’s set mostly in New York, and was all shot there – even the short ‘Miami’ episode. The Little Italy bar where Lefty and Donnie first meet was Mare Chiaro, 176 Mulberry Street between Broome and Grand Streets.
The bar, also known as Tony’s, has been seen in many movies including Nine 1/2 Weeks, State of Grace and The Godfather Part III – and of course TV’s The Sopranos. When I was there, a list of its film credits was proudly displayed on the wall. Although photos of the owner with the likes of Frank Sinatra decorate the bar, the relentless encroachment of Chinatown on the area of the old Little Italy meant that this once-Italian bar seemed to be Chinese run. It's been renamed the Mulberry Street Bar. Let's hope it keeps the slightly scruffy, old-style atmosphere.
Pistone meets up with his FBI control in Katzs Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street between Ludlow and Orchard Streets in the East Village, most famous as the restaurant where Meg Ryan faked it for Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally... and seen also in the Disney fantasy Enchanted.
While I was in New York in 1996 getting photos for the book, I found Mott Street (where scenes for The Godfather were shot) closed for filming. I watched endless retakes as two characters crossed and re-crossed the road, assuming, as always seems to be the case, it was either an ad or a TV show.