You could hear the ka-ching at movie box offices around the nation this summer as “Crazy Rich Asians” became the season’s must-see rom-com. Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2014 best-selling novel, the film offers lush locales of Singapore and other Far East playgrounds. But we’re purists, so we went back to the novel to discover how and where the protagonists—the impossibly handsome and Oxford-educated Nick Young and the impossibly beautiful and intelligent Rachel Chu—first hooked up. Surprise, surprise: Their love took hold and flourished in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The book may be fiction, but these nine NYC restaurants, attractions and locals are real. Take our tour and fall head over heels with this quintessential downtown neighborhood. Best of all, you don’t have to be crazy rich to do so.
LA LANTERNA DI VITTORIO
Nick and Rachel, both professors at New York University, meet on a blind date in the year-round brick-walled garden of this romantic Italian café, restaurant and jazz club. The café/coffee house is a popular spot for espresso, pastries, gelato and sorbets; the full menu (soups, salads, thin-crust pizzas, lasagnas and cheese platters) is served from 10 am until an hour before closing (2 am weekdays, 3 am weekends); and the bar offers live jazz nightly in an intimate basement space. Little wonder sparks fly between the two over cocktails (Nick’s fave is a gin and tonic, Rachel’s a Kir Royale) and chat. 129 MacDougal St., 917.639.3236, www.lalanternacaffe.com
WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK and NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
After drinks at La Lanterna, Nick and Rachel walk through Washington Square Park, the leafy centerpiece of New York University’s campus. Founded in 1831, one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning is known for its Tisch School of the Arts (where Lady Gaga attended!), Stern School of Business, Gallatin School of Individualized Studies and School of Medicine. Incidentally, if you’re thinking of attending the med school, know that the university now covers the annual tuition. That’s $55,000 on the house. As an economist, Rachel Chu would certainly have something good to say about that. 70 Washington Sq. So., 212.998.1212, www.nyu.edu
And in spite of its past life as a potter’s field, 9.75-acre Washington Square Park at the southern end of Fifth Avenue is full of life today. People-watching doesn’t get much better than it does at the fountain, where students congregate before, after or on their way to classes, sometimes even during classes (weather permitting). The park is also a magnet for buskers, street performers and chess players. Seasonal plantings catch the eye. Be sure to check out the marble Washington Square Arch, designed by Stanford White, constructed between 1890 and 1892, and named for George Washington, the first president of the United States. www.nycgovparks.org/parks/washington-square-park
FATHER DEMO SQUARE
After walking through Washington Square Park, Nick and Rachel head toward Sixth Avenue and Father Demo Square for a nightcap of gelato. Novelist Kevin Kwan doesn’t tell his readers where they buy their sweet treat, but we will. If you find yourself in Father Demo Square, there is not one, but two options—practically next door to each other—where you can satisfy your ice cream craving.
Grom dominates the corner at the Bleecker Street end of Father Demo Square. The international gelateria, with locations from Italy to Hong Kong to Malibu, changes its menu every month; its fruit sorbets are seasonal; and everything is gluten-free. Grom’s motto, il gelato come una volta (ice cream as it once was), sums up why lines are out the door. 233 Bleecker St., 212.206.1738, www.Grom.it/en
As its name suggests, Popbar serves its gelato, sorbet and yogurt on a stick. All ingredients are natural, and most are locally sourced. Sorbets are fruit-based (no milk). Pops can be customized with toppings (almonds, sprinkles) and dippings (dark chocolate, white chocolate). In addition to 3-oz. pops, there are miniPops at half the size, as well as bite-size popBites. Nick would definitely dig this place: There’s a location in his hometown, Singapore. 5 Carmine St., 212.255.4874, www.pop-bar.com
Having made your selection, hang with your gelato cup from Grom or pop from Popbar in Father Demo Square. With benches galore and a fountain, this piazza is a bit of the Old Country in the West Village. Father Antonio Demo, by the way, was a padre in the early 20th century at Our Lady of Pompeii Church, the cathedral-like parish church across the street from Grom. Sixth Ave., btw Carmine & Bleecker sts., www.nycgovparks.org/parks/father-demo-square
TEA AND SYMPATHY
It doesn’t take long after their first date for Nick and Rachel to get serious and live together in the Village. But perhaps most importantly their togetherness means a favorite table—by the window, no less—at this intimate British purveyor (think: shabby chic) of afternoon tea—steaming pots of Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong et al, scones, clotted cream, jam, finger sandwiches and pastries. Tea for two = $68. Lunch and dinner specialties include bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, Welsh rarebit and, on Sunday, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. There’s even a shop next door for British groceries, teas and china accouterments to go. This is where we bought our souvenir Harry and Megan wedding mug. By the way, Tea & Sympathy is where the novel’s plot thickens and Nick asks Rachel to accompany him to Singapore for a friend’s wedding. 108 Greenwich Ave., 212.807.8329, www.teaandsympathy.com
The course of true love never does run smooth, and Nick and Rachel hit a rough patch once they’re to Singapore. Rachel had no idea Nick’s family is as wealthy as it is—or as malicious. The lovebirds temporarily split, which leads Nick to reminisce about their good old days in the Village and getting up early on Sunday mornings for the quintessential NYC breakfast: bagel sandwiches at Murray’s Bagels made with eggs, roast beef, New York-style corned beef, Nova Scotia salmon or prosciutto di Parma. Bagels are hand-rolled and come in an abundance of flavors: garlic, poppy seed, cinnamon raisin, pumpernickel, multigrain and more. There’s table seating inside and benches outside for noshing. Either way, Murray’s Bagel’s is buzzing. 500 Sixth Ave., 212.462.2830, www.murraysbagels.com
UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET
Once Rachel realizes just how wealthy Nick really is, his penchant for buying produce at the Union Square Greenmarket begins to make sense. The economist thinks the produce overpriced, but the diehard foodie that she is says, Go for it. The greenmarket at the entrance to the Village may seem like an anomaly: a plot of nature in a concrete canyon, but devotees swear that a walk through it on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday year-round is like a month in the country. Farmers make the trek from upstate New York, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to set up stalls. Many of the neighborhood’s finest restaurants shop here. North and west sides of Union Square Park, btw W. 14th & W. 17th sts., www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/manhattan-union-square-m