In 1988, a little movie called Mystic Pizza made its premiere in the U.S. and thoroughly charmed its audiences. The movie centers around the lives of three young women coming of age in a picturesque New England coastal town. The film was shot on location in Mystic, Stonington and Groton, Connecticut, with a few scenes filmed in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
Since the movie’s opening 23 years ago, tourists from all over the world have visited Mystic and the real life Mystic Pizza restaurant made famous by the movie. Everyone wants to relive a bit of movie magic and to try their very own “slice of heaven.”
During a location scouting trip in Connecticut earlier this month, I had a chance to visit a few of the Mystic Pizza film locations. With GPS, camera and research notes in hand, I giddily drove to all the locations as I could get to in one afternoon. Below is a recap for all Mystic Pizza fans out there.
My first stop on the list was to the real life Mystic Pizza restaurant that inspired screen writer Amy Holden Jones when she was summering in the area. Ms. Jones, charmed by the small local pizzeria and the quaint New England town of Mystic, decided to use the restaurant as the setting for her story. Scenes set at the restaurant however were actually filmed in a different location, at a set in neighboring Stonington. (The real restaurant was too small and also could not be closed for the filming.)
Today Mystic Pizza is still very much in business. When I was there this past Columbus Day weekend, there were lots of construction going on in town, mostly to repair the sidewalks which were badly damaged during Hurricane Irene last August.
Within the past year, the owners have renovated and expanded the restaurant to accommodate two levels of dining. If customers don’t have much time for a formal sit-down meal, they can always enjoy their pizzas at the counter by the front window. With a great view of downtown Mystic and a colorful fish tank nearby, it may actually be a nice sit-down meal after all.
Posters, memorabilias and photos from the movie are proudly showcased everywhere in the restaurant.
And yes, their “A Slice of Heaven” t-shirts (which the actresses were wearing in the film) are still selling like hot pizza pies. The famous tag line is also displayed prominently at the front counter where people can order their pizzas to go.
Because of the movie, tourists from all over the world have come to Mystic in search of the famous Mystic Pizza. Once there, everyone’s delighted to find out that the pizzas are actually quite delicious also. A surprise bonus.
To say business is good at Mystic Pizza is ... an understatement.
56 W. Main Street
After a slice of cheese pizza and tall glass of root beer, I took a walk down Main Street. Steps from Mystic Pizza are many restaurants and shops, including one of my favorite independent bookstores - Bank Square Books. After purchasing a Stephen King paperback, I continued on my walk toward Mystic Bridge.
Since it was Columbus Holiday weekend, Main Street was packed with cars and tourists. Mystic Bridge, being a working bascule drawbridge, was periodically raised to allow boats and ships to pass through. This caused the traffic on Main Street to stand still at times.
Which scenes in the movie were filmed on or near Mystic Bridge, you wonder? Charlie drives Daisy right by here on their first date. It was a flash on the screen, but if you look carefully, you’ll see the bridge and a stretch of Main Street flying by in the movie.
Here’s Main Street today if you’re going in the same direction as Charlie and Daisy above.
It’s also by the Mystic Bridge that Jojo yells at her boyfriend Bill for changing the name on his boat from “Jojo” to “Nympho” since she cannot commit to a second marriage date.
From where Jojo was standing, this would be her view as she was looking down at Bill’s boat.
A group of tourists and people walking by on the bridge applaud for Jojo as she gives Bill her piece of mind.
After a nice long lunch break at Mystic Pizza, I headed down to Noank to the next film location on the list: Ford’s Lobsters. Renamed “Ferriera Lobsters” for the film, Ford’s Lobsters is the lobster processing plant where Kat and Daisy’s mother worked in the movie. Remember that scene when Kat rides up to Ferriera Lobsters on her scooter to deliver a pizza to her mom? That was filmed at Ford’s Lobsters.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that not much has changed since the movie. The place looks almost exactly as it was in Mystic Pizza, even down to the quaint lobster shack covered with colorful buoys.
Ford’s Lobsters is now an outdoor eatery, specializing in … lobsters, of course. Under a white tent by the water, a gentleman was making sandwiches. Even with a tummy full of cheese pizzas, I ordered a hot lobster roll. It came with a generous container of melted butter.
Ford’s Lobsters is one of the best-kept secret in the area. Delicious lobsters served hot or cold in the fresh open air by the water. Lunch cannot get better than that.
By the way, I asked the server if he knew that this was where they filmed Mystic Pizza. He said he had heard of it, but hadn’t yet seen the movie.
15 Riverview Avenue
From Ford’s Lobsters, I retraced my way back on Noank Road and made a left onto Greenmanville Avenue. There by the shore of Mystic River is Latitude 41° Restaurant, formerly the Seamen’s Inne. It was in this building that the “Fireside Gourmet” television show was filmed. The girls and Leona watch this show religiously and are ecstatic when Mystic Pizza receives rave reviews on the “Fireside Gourmet.”
At the time of the making of the movie, the restaurant was still the Seamen’s Inne. It is now Latitude 41° Restaurant, a part of Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea.
Latitude 41° Restaurant
105 Greenmanville Avenue
From Latitude 41° Restaurant, I drove north on Route 1 and headed toward Stonington. Originally a trading post on the Pawcatuck River, scenic Stonington comprises a number of villages such as Pawcatuck, Stonington Borough, Lords Point, Wequetequock and the eastern halves of Mystic and Old Mystic. The next film location on my list was in Stonington … Zack’s Bar & Grill.
In the movie, Zack’s was the “Peg Leg Pub” where Daisy first meets Charlie during a pool game. It was also there that the girls steal Bill’s truck filled with fish barrels that Daisy later dumps into Charlie’s Porsche because of a misunderstanding.
Zack’s Bar & Grill is still open today, serving from classic pub food to their signature “Stonington” Sea Scallops and Fisherman’s Stew. The restaurant was closed when I got there so I didn’t get a chance to check out its interiors. Hopefully, next time.
Zack’s Bar & Grill
201 N. Main Street
After a brief stop at Zack’s, I continued on Main Street and drove south to Water Street in Stonington Borough. Water Street - the main thoroughfare of this idyllic seaside village - is where Skipper’s Dock is located. In the movie, Skipper’s Dock is the “Mystic Harbor Yacht Club” where Charlie and Daisy have their first date. In the movie, we only get to see the restaurant’s interior. The beautiful location of the restaurant somehow wasn’t featured, which was a shame. Skipper’s Dock sits right on the water and has breathtaking views from almost every side.
Skipper’s Dock Restaurant
66 Water Street
Stonington Borough, CT
A few steps down Water Street from Skipper’s Dock is the building where the Mystic Pizza movie set was built. Since the real restaurant couldn’t be shut down for the length of time needed to film the movie, a Mystic Pizza set was created here instead to match as much as possible the actual restaurant’s interior at the time. All of the scenes taking place at Mystic Pizza Restaurant were shot here.
Here’s a couple of screenshots of Jojo and Bill in front of Mystic Pizza trying to talk about what happened at their almost-wedding.
I took the below photo at the same corner. Even the stairway in the alley is still there.
Today, the building is occupied by the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club (SHYC) Sailing Foundation. During the filming of the movie, the front entrance to the building was facing directly onto Water Street. Some time ago, the building was renovated and the entrance was moved to the corner of the building.
Mystic Pizza Movie Set
73 Water Street
Stonington Borough, CT
From the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club Sailing Foundation, I drove down Water Street, turn left to pass through Cannon Square, and then made another left onto Main Street. A few blocks down Main, I made a right onto Church Street in search of the mansion that stood in for the Windsor house. I finally spotted it at the corner of Church and Orchard Streets.
This was where all the scenes at Charlie’s family residence were filmed. And if you remember the dinner scene, do you recall who played Charlie’s little brother? A certain now-very-famous actor who was then just starting out in that role with barely two lines of script.
From the outside, the house looks exactly as it does in the movie. Not much has changed.
I also noticed the “sold” sign posted at the entrance to the driveway. Guess it will soon have a new owner.
Since the house seemed deserted, I took a brief walk around the property and was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s located right on the water.
The view from the garden was magnificent. I can’t believe this view wasn’t showcased more in the movie.
Windsor Family House
Stonington Borough, CT
About six miles north from Stonington on Route 1 was a quiet little village named Pawcatuck. At the intersection of Route 1 (West Broad Street) and Mechanic Street, I made a right onto Mechanic Street and drove along the river until I arrived at my next destination: the houses at 187 and 185 Mechanic Street.
These two neighboring houses were the homes of Daisy and Kat Arujo and their friend Jojo Barboza. In the movie, Kat & Daisy live with their mom at 187 Mechanic Street, and Jojo lives with her parents next door at 185 Mechanic Street.
Here’s the view from the houses looking to the right.
This is where we see Daisy walking home to find Charlie talking to her mom in the living room.
The Arujo and Barboza Family Houses
187 Mechanic Street
The last location on my list was St. Peter and Paul Polish National Church. Unfortunately, time was running short and I didn’t get a chance to visit the church. In the opening scene of the movie, this church stood in as St. Mary’s where Jojo faints during her wedding ceremony to Bill. Not sure if the church is still there today or whether the building has been converted to a private residence. Perhaps the next time I’m in Groton, I’ll try to make a stop there to find out.
St. Peter and Paul Polish National Church
730 State Pier Road
New London, CT
Recently, a feature film called Great Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, was filmed in Stonington, Connecticut. Unfortunately, I arrived in Stonington a few days too late and missed it.
For more information on filming in Connecticut, visit the Connecticut Film Office’s website.