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"I was a cross between 50 Cent and Dr. Fauci," says Fallon, recalling their memorably bad first throws. "If the bar is set there, then I did pretty well. The catcher caught the ball and it didn’t hit the dirt, but (former Yankees pitcher) Mariano Rivera came out to watch me as my pitching coach, so I just added some more pressure there."
Fallon's inaugural trip to the pitcher's mound was captured for a special episode of his NBC late-night show that aired Thursday (11:35 EDT/PDT). "The Tonight Show: Five Boroughs Edition" is the Brooklyn native's way of paying tribute to New York, which was one of the cities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic early last year. Now that it's almost fully reopened (with mask and vaccine mandates), Fallon wanted to celebrate the Big Apple's rich culture by spotlighting all five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island – on his show.
"It's back and there's so many things to see in this city," Fallon says. "I love it so much, it's in my blood, and anything I can do to give back and say thank you to the place that made me who I am, why not?"
Highlights include a trip out to Coney Island with the "Tonight Show" band The Roots, as well as a street art tutorial from graffiti artist Lady Pink in Astoria. The Killers cap off the episode with a rooftop performance at 30 Rock, but not before Fallon and Michael Strahan surprise guests while posing as wax figures at Madame Tussauds.
"I make a pretty good dummy," Fallon jokes. "You have to sit really still and not breathe because our Adam's apples would give it away. We got busted a couple times."
In honor of the New York-centric episode, Fallon, 47, shares some of his go-to spots in the city with USA TODAY:
"H&H Bagels was the one I used to bring Tina Fey and Mike Schur on Saturday mornings (while working on 'Saturday Night Live'). I would always come with a bag of bagels and we'd have a last 'Weekend Update' read together, all eating bagels. So now I go between that and Ess-a-Bagel."
Fallon and his wife, producer Nancy Juvonen, are parents to two young kids (Winnie Rose, 8, and Frances Cole, 6), which can make date nights tough. "But we used to like a place called Raines Law Room. It's like a speakeasy, and they also have a sister bar called Dear Irving, which is really cool."
Best ice cream
"Morgenstern's is brilliant. I was with (founder Nicholas Morgenstern) at a Willie Nelson concert once and he was talking to Willie about making some type of weed ice cream. He has the most adventurous flavors and it's fresh, and you go, 'Oh, I never knew ice cream could taste this good.' I like that and I also like Shake Shack frozen custard."
Best movie theater
"My favorite is the Paris Theater. I just feel very New York when I go there, and it might be the last theater (in the city) that has a balcony. They're usually showing a movie that should be on everyone's watch list, whether it be a foreign film or something else. I just remember always having a great experience and good popcorn."
In Thursday's episode, "I went to this place called Joe & Pat's Pizzeria in Staten Island and apparently, it's like the best pizza in the city. It was phenomenal. There are so many best pizzas in New York – they probably have five of the best pizzerias in the country. But I'm a sucker for Joe's Pizza. Joe & Pat's are more thin crust, but the Joe's in Manhattan is more New York chewy crust. I'm not a connoisseur, but I know when it's good and bad, and this place is really good."
Best public bathroom
"It's a restaurant but I guess it's public: I love the restrooms at Yakiniku Futago. It's a Japanese barbecue place. You go to the bathrooms there and I'm like, 'You don't normally see this.' It's clean, and everyone can have their own floss and mouthwash. You can't ask for more, so that one surprised me." The New York Marriott Marquis Hotel lobby bathrooms are also handy if you're stuck in Times Square: "I've been to that one before between (Broadway) shows."
Best restaurant to treat yourself
"You can't beat Eleven Madison Park. That's a once every five years venture. (Chef Daniel Humm) has changed the menu to be completely vegan and it's amazing what he's doing. You almost pay for the experience as well as the food, but everything is down to the T perfect. It's like a magic trick. I also love Gramercy Tavern for another night out, that's a great spot. It might be the only restaurant left in the city that has a working fireplace where you can smell a wood-burning fire. It's so cozy, it's the perfect time of year to go there."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jimmy Fallon: 'Tonight Show' host picks New York's best pizza, bagels