In certain circles, Chita Rivera is the stuff of legend. Best known for portraying Anita in "West Side Story" and Velma Kelly in "Chicago," the Tony-winning Broadway star could sing, dance, and act in equal measure. Rivera, who died on January 30 at the age of 91, is remembered by performance historian Brian Herrer as "a performer, through and through," per NBC News. But for a brief time, Rivera was also a pretty successful restaurant owner.
After suffering a dozen leg fractures during a car accident in 1988, Rivera not only recovered but opened a restaurant in partnership with sensational crime novelist Daniel Simone. Chita's, the fun-dining eatery bearing Rivera's name, was located on 42nd Street, smack in the middle of the Broadway Theater District. A 1988 restaurant review published by the New York Times made the place sound kitschy and captivating. The restaurant had a "black and white tile floor, fuchsia walls, leopard-skin banquettes, fake palm trees and framed photos of Miss Rivera in various high-stepping poses," the review read. Its showy decor and prime location positioned Chita's as the perfect place for theater fans to grab a post-show bite.
A Taste Of Home At Chita's
More than just an attraction for theater fans looking to get the full Broadway experience, Chita's was a family business, managed by Chita Rivera's sister, Lola del Rivero. Designed to satisfy crowds of tourists, the menu included pizza, pasta dishes, and salads. However, the sisters managed to incorporate a touch of their Puerto Rican roots into it, sprinkling dishes like shrimp and polenta in between some of the more Americanized options.
Closing its doors in 1994 after about six years of business, Chita's was a relatively short-lived venture for the performer. Nevertheless, Rivera remembered the experience fondly during a 2009 interview, telling the Windy City Times, "It was a lot of fun." Although the curtain closed on Rivera's time in the restaurant industry, she remained an active part of the theater community, going on to star in "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life," an autobiographical Broadway show for which she received a Tony nomination.
Read the original article on Mashed.