Astoria on Location: A Bronx Tale

Despite what it sounds like, A Bronx Tale is anything but. Filmed almost entirely in Astoria along 30th Avenue, save for a scene apiece in Brooklyn and on City Island in the Bronx, the film boasts excellent views of the popular street before the advent of the fro-yo craze.

A Bronx Tale boasts an unusual feat for one of the actors, as it was Robert De Niro’s directorial debut, along with fellow costar Chazz Palminteri’s first screenplay and play turned movie. In fact, De Niro wanted to purchase the film rights originally, but Palminteri refused unless he could write the screenplay and play Sonny. With the two being such friends, they helped each other along the way, with De Niro involving Palminteri in every aspect of production, like casting, editing, sound mixing, and even scouting locations. The duo chose to film in Astoria because of the buildings that still stood from the 1950s and it still had that gritty Italian look and feel, especially along 30th Avenue, between 44th and 47th Streets, where they filmed the majority of the movie.

The film follows the story of Calogero (played as a teen by Lillo Brancato) and his father, Lorenzo (De Niro), a bus driver through the town. Whenever Calogero is out on his front steps, he always sees these cool looking guys talking and getting into fights, Sonny (Palminteri) being one of them. After being questioned by the police and denying Sonny as a suspect in a crime, Calogero is repaid by Sonny by becoming an assistant to him and his crime organization, something he has always wanted to become a part of, since he saw the gangsters talking all those years ago. With all this in context, plus the fact that Calogero falls for an African-American girl on the “wrong side of town,” Lorenzo tries to pull him away from that scene, and it’s up to Calogero to finally make a choice.

The film is almost entirely filmed right in front of St. Joseph’s Church, on 30th Avenue, between 44th Street and 43rd Street. There are plenty of scenes actually involving the presence of the church in the film, like how both Lorenzo and young Calogero make the sign of the cross when passing by as Lorenzo drives the bus by. The church is also the place where Lorenzo yells at the neighborhood kids for trying to get a ride by hanging onto the back of the bus. The apartment building on 30th Avenue and 47th Street, the whole block distinctive for its green-painted tops and yellow bricks, also is their home in the film, with plenty of scenes of either Lorenzo or his wife Rosina (Kathrine Narducci) leaning out the window and calling for Calogero to return home.

However, the entrance used in the film is actually on the same block as the bar, for cinematic purposes to make it easier for Sonny to find Calogero; and vice versa. The bar, aptly named Chez Bippy, is now where the American Sports Center for Karate and Tae Kwon Do is, on 44th Street and 30th Avenue. This is also where the important scene of the police shakedown early on in the movie, where the police ask Calogero to choose from a lineup who he saw talking about committing a crime, and where Calogero turned a blind eye. And lastly, shots of Bryant High School were used when Calogero met with a girl he had a crush on, someone that neither his parents nor friends agree with.

The film is a great movie to watch about a mobster tale, and it’s always fun to see our town featured prominently in a movie with such greats like De Niro or Palminteri.

—Catherina Gioino

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2015-07-01 digital edition