January 9, 2007 by

Vincent Sardi Jr.

8 comments

Categories: Business

Vincent Sardi Jr., the owner of a landmark New York City restaurant, died on Jan. 4 of complications related to a urinary tract infection. He was 91.
The native New Yorker was the son of Vincent Sardi Sr., an Italian immigrant who opened Sardi’s in 1921. The eponymous eatery, which is currently located on 44th Street in the heart of Manhattan’s theater district, became a magnet for celebrities before World War II. Sardi Jr. served in the Marines during the war, and took over the business in 1947.
For the next five decades, Sardi’s was a popular hotspot for Hollywood legends and Broadway stars to celebrate their opening nights, conduct interviews with the press and seal deals for future roles. Patrons from all over the world also visited the venerated establishment to eat Sardi’s famous baked Alaska and to view the more than 1,300 celebrity caricatures that appear on the restaurant’s walls.
Sardi donated 227 caricatures dating from the late 1920s through the early 1950s to the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in 1979. Over 275 caricatures were also published in the book, “Off the Wall at Sardi’s.”
Sardi sold his world-famous restaurant in 1985 to two producers from Detroit, Ivan Bloch and Harvey Klaris, and the restaurateur Stuart Lichtenstein. But when the owners declared bankruptcy and closed the place in 1990, Sardi bought it back and reopened it a year later. The new Sardi’s featured a renovated dining area and a new menu. He retired in 1997; his grandson, Sean Ricketts, now manages the place.
During his tenure as owner of Sardi’s, Vincent tried to attend every opening night on Broadway and encouraged his staff to do the same. He ran tabs for out-of-work actors and offered a low-priced menu for members of Actors’ Equity, the Screen Actors Guild or the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The theatre community paid back his generosity in 2004 by giving Sardi a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre. To pay further homage to the unofficial “mayor of Broadway,” theatres on the Great White Way dimmed their marquee lights on Jan. 5 for one minute.

8 Responses to Vincent Sardi Jr.

  1. Remy Whitehouse

    Thanks Vincent for bringing back “Sardi’s” after a disastrous closing in 1990..I first started going to Sardi’s in the early ’70’s at the “Little Bar” just to the right of the front door..bought a drink for Blossom Dearie there !!.
    In the 80’s, Sardi upstairs was my favorite stop on the way to the bus Terminal and New Jersey..and many a time Vincent would be there upstairs in his calvary boots in the window corner holding court with anyone and everyone..thanks for the memories, Vince..God Bless
    Remy Whitehouse
    Gainesville, FL

  2. Geoffrey Brandner

    This is in tribute to Vinnie and his great restaurant. The food is tremendous and the people who frequent the back room are salt of the earth. The prices are high but at least the mens room is clean and the waiters are professionals. A tip of the hat to this famous eatery and heres hope that the hobos who panhandle the patrons will move elsewhere.

  3. Don Cianciaruso

    I worked at Sardi’s for 5 years as Payroll Manager seeing Mr. Sardi daily…he was a true gentleman and a wonderful person. His star will shine over Broadway forever.

  4. Richard Partlow

    I met Vincent Sardi in the early 1970’s through a mutual friend, Illa Howe. She and I were in an Off-Off Broadway show together. Vincent and I became friends and would on occassion go out to clubs after he closed Sardi’s for the night. As a struggling actor being with Vincent made me feel like I mattered in New York City. As a friend he was genuine, loyal and generous. I always tried to pay my own way when we were out and sometimes he would let me but most of the time, wherever we went it was always on the house. When I moved to California in November of 1974, thanks to Vincent, I stayed my first year in the guest house at actor Ralph Meeker and wife Coleen’s home in Sun Valley. We stayed in touch by phone and Christmas cards.
    Then in the early 1980’s I was planning to marry Deb Kurtz who was born and raised in New York City and whose Mother worked for an entertainment lawyer. I asked Vincent if we could get married upstairs at Sardi’s. He not only said yes but honored me by being my best man and as I recall would not let us pay for anything including the small reception afterwards. I did however over tip the help. I still have the last letter I recieved from Vincent in the 1990’s. Although we had not communicated for a number of years he was always in my thoughts and heart.
    I consider myself a very lucky man indeed for having known and shared part of my life with him.
    Thank you Vincent for being such a bright light in my life.
    My Love is with you.
    Rick
    Richard VanDervort Partlow,

  5. Geraldine Salvatorelli

    Evenings that Linger Long After They’re Over –
    One night, on our way out of Le Jardin, after a night of vigorous dancing, my friend ushered me into a taxi and said I have someone I think you should meet tonight.
    and my friend ushered me into Sardi’s to meet Vincent. I was wearing a daring, “Some Like It Hot,” backless, red banlon dress that was made in Israel and that I purchased at Loeman’s in the Bronx. I clutched a hand made, Spanish shawl, I bought in Madrid tightly around my shoulders that I’d brought along just in case — I didn’t really expect to be going anywhere well lit.
    The evening felt like I had made my formal debut — the ever charming, charismatic Vincent treated me like the star of my own opening night. Nights like that one that drive memoir writers like me to think and write about people like Vincent with profound longing and nostalgia long after they’re gone. Almost two decades later, I encountered Vincent in my office at WNBC-TV, when my job was to prepare him to be on television.
    http://www.Geraldeena.com

  6. dolph prince

    I have been a patron of Sardi’s for the past 30 odd years. I remember that Vincent used to always stop by my table, and chat. Once when he was there i admired a tie that he had on. At the end of my meal,a waiter delivered the tie to me with Vincent’s sompliments. I still have the tie to this day. He willbe missed by me and my family. Kudos to Max for carrying on the tradition of the great rest. I also have a thank you note for a card that I sent when Vincent’s mother (eugenia)
    passed

  7. gary cossey

    Vincent sailed on lake champlain on my boat out of essex ny.when he lived in vermont we had a great dinner at bernards at la bistro du luk.He is missed very much and when ever i sail i think of that day.

  8. William de Vos

    I met Vince and June back i’n the late 80’s and found Vince to be such a regular guy; unpretentious but dignified. I was just a contractor working on his property but we had a mutual fondness for sports cars ( and he could have been my grandfather Bariani’s twin brother) so It was something special to have casual car talks whenever I came to work there. I occasionally think of him fondly and this was one of those moments.

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