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Travel: Manhattan Getaway 

We breezed into the city in less than six hours and checked into the Four Seasons Hotel, a comforting oasis in the heart of Manhattan. The 52-story building is the tallest hotel in the city, occupying the entire depth between 57th and 58th streets. The graceful, stepped spire — the tower ascends into the sky with seven vertical setbacks, each progressively taller than the one below — creates a distinctive shape against the skyline.

The geometric design by I.M. Pei is postmodern. Pei used honey-colored limestone from France — the same that he used on his addition to The Louvre in Paris — on the building's exterior. Inside, the grand foyer has a 33-foot onyx ceiling and floor-to-ceiling columns.

Our room was spacious — standard rooms are billed as the largest in New York City — and contemporary in design. It had a caramel color scheme with plasma televisions and a prevalence of light, creamy-colored woods throughout. We were fortunate enough to snag a room with a balcony, allowing us to enjoy the cadence of the city streets.

Before heading to the theater — a must for any New York trip — we stopped into Cesca, a cozy Italian restaurant on the city's West Side that features an open kitchen and fantastic southern Italian cuisine. Masculine shades of dark brown woods and deep brown velvet cushions stood out against the restaurant's stenciled ivory-colored walls. Iron floor lamps scattered about gave the dining room a homelike atmosphere.

Brunch the next day was at Havana Central at Times Square, a lively Cuban restaurant with great food (the Cuban pork melts in your mouth) and live performances of Cuban jazz.

That afternoon a friend drove us to Brooklyn — it was my first trip there — to the trendy Park Slope area. We dined at La Villa, a casual, family-oriented pizzeria and restaurant. The restaurant has a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. Our food was divine, from the focaccia and thin-crust pizza appetizers to the restaurant's signature chicken entree.

The next morning we had tickets for "Live With Regis & Kelly" — a fun adventure that started at 7 a.m. and lasted till late morning. That evening we ate at Tavern on the Green. The weather was pleasantly warm and sunny, and we were able to score an outside table. It was a great location for people-watching.

The following day we indulged in a food tour of Belmont, known as the Little Italy of the Bronx. Savory Sojourns, the tour company, is owned by Addie Tomei — you probably remember her Academy Award-winning daughter, Marisa, who starred in "My Cousin Vinny." The Bronx was new territory for me. Our trip over with Addie was a delight. Between the crazy traffic and her hilarious anecdotes, we had a great time. Arthur Avenue (Belmont) is a throwback to the Italian neighborhoods of the 1950s. Family businesses dot the streets; some are second- and third-generation.

Our almost five-hour tour started at the Arthur Avenue Café with samples of Italian pastries, sfogliatella, to be exact, and cappuccinos. From there, we visited Randazzo's Seafood Market, filled with fresh seafood — everything from fillet of sole to octopus and calamari. Next stop, Calabria Pork Store, where dried, moldy — yes, they are supposed to be that way — sausages hang from the ceiling like stalactites. Several people on the tour opted to stay outside, where the air was much fresher. We then strolled through the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, where we found Mike's Deli. Michele (Mike) Greco greeted us in true Italian style, and his son, David, gave us a lesson on making fresh mozzarella. During the demonstration, Mike serenaded us in Italian. We left with bags of homemade spaghetti sauce and fresh Parmesan.

We then headed to Madonia Brothers Bakery — the biscotti and crumb cake are worth the visit — and Biancardi's Meats. Next was Teitel Brothers, the only Jewish merchant left on Arthur Avenue, and Mount Carmel Wines. We watched as they baked bread in a coal-fired oven at Terranova Bakery and finally settled into lunch at Roberto's Restaurant. Our delightful meal included everything from risotto with sausage and crispy pancetta to veal scaloppine with porcini mushrooms and fava beans.

Before heading back home, we made a pact with Addie that we would come back and check out another borough. Food is always a great enticement.



Where to Visit

Four Seasons, 57 East 57th St., (212) 758-5700

Savory Sojourns, (888) 9-SAVORY, www.savorysojourns.com

La Villa, 261 5th Ave., Brooklyn, (718) 499-9888

Havana Central, 151 West 46th St., (212) 398-7447

Cesca, 164 West 75th St., (212) 787-6300

Tavern on the Green, Central Park at West 67th, (212) 873-3200

Arthur Avenue Café, (718) 562-0129

Randazzo's Seafood Market, (718) 367-4139

Calabria Pork Store, (718) 367-5145

Arthur Avenue Retail Market, (718) 295-5033

Madonia Brothers Bakery, (718) 295-5573

Biancardi's Meats, (718) 733-4058

Mike's Deli, (718) 295-5033

Teitel Brothers, (718) 733-9400

Mount Carmel Wines, (718) 367-7833

Terranova Bakery, (718) 367-6985

Roberto's Restaurant, (718) 733-9503

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