OK, so she's from Tenafly, New Jersey. But it's Barcelona that has an emotional hold on this Oscar-winning actress. It also has, she says, the world's best bread.
When Mira Sorvino arrived in Barcelona in 1994 to film a movie called Barcelona, she had a past in academia and a future in acting. Raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, she was the daughter of tough-guy character actor Paul Sorvino, who raised his kids to strive for an education instead of childhood acting careers. So Mira became a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, where she majored in East Asian languages and became fluent in Mandarin. She gravitated toward acting after working on social projects targeting illiteracy and prejudice. In the course of playing a beautiful Catalan trade-fair girl in the film Barcelona, she fell for the city at her feet, returning again and again as her star rose: from a co-starring role in Robert Redford's Quiz Show to her breakthrough performance as a helium-voiced call girl in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, which won her a 1995 Best Supporting Actress Oscar and which was followed up by a 1996 Best Actress Emmy nomination for her role as Marilyn Monroe in HBO's Norma Jean and Marilyn. Since then, she's starred as an airhead blonde opposite Lisa Kudrow in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, a lovelorn waitress in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, and a street-tough master forger opposite Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat in The Replacement Killers. On January 20, she returns to TV as Daisy Buchanan in A&E's feature-length production of The Great Gatsby. When she gets some time off, and the ability to go anywhere, she'll return to Barcelona, the childhood home of Pablo Picasso and the palette of architect Antoni Gaudí. Here's a weekend in the port city where Mira Sorvino came of age as an actress.
"The Hotel Colón is right in the center of everything. It's near the Barri Gòtic, the Barrio Gothico. It has a very nice lobby, very helpful staff. They are sweet and friendly. If you want a modern hotel as opposed to a traditional one, although you won't be in Barcelona proper, stay at the Hotel Arts. You have to walk about 25 minutes to get to the main port in the downtown area, but the hotel is on a nice sandy beach. There are a lot of good little open-air restaurants that face out onto that beach."
"Do not expect dinner at 6:30, American time. You have to move your clock to a different rhythm. People start eating around 9:30, which is even kind of early. A lot of people begin their night around 10 and stay up really, really late at clubs and discos. People have siestas in the afternoon. Be aware of that, too, if you're planning to shop in the afternoon, because everything shuts down from around 1 or 1:30 until around 4:30."
"It's hard to get bad food in Barcelona. At night, if you're looking for really classic, great Barcelona food, there's Botafumeiro, which has unbelievably good seafood. It's probably the best restaurant in Barcelona. They have she-crab with this dipping sauce that is so delicious. They also have great cigala, which is like a large crawfish. It's not a langoustine, it's not a lobster, and it's bigger than a shrimp. Everything they have at Botafumeiro is good. Everything a la plancha [grilled] is good. It's almost like a classic old New York restaurant. They have photographs on the wall of various famous people eating there. It's a place where you wouldn't be surprised to see somebody smoking a cigar."
"I was really into jazz when I was there, and there was a jazz club called La Cova del Drac, Cave of the Dragon. It's an upscale jazz club that has international jazz acts coming through. You would go there with a date, well-dressed. A more 'downtown' place is the Barcelona Pipa Club down in the Barrio Gothico. That's a great place to listen to jazz. Even the discotheque, La Boîte, has good jazz acts coming through. If you want more casual 'on the street' music, hang around the steps of the Cathedral. You're always going to have local guitarists playing flamenco guitar outside. I remember seeing an opera singer one night right behind the Cathedral, and then another night, Lou Reed was playing in the square of the Cathedral. We had the cast party for Barcelona at Up & Down, which is a real institution. The crowd there is a little bit older. Disco-wise, there's the local hot spot Otto Zutz."