NEW YORK Vincent Sardi, Jr., who for 50 years operated the landmark Broadway restaurant that bore his family’s name, died on June 4 at age 91.
Although Sardi’s caters to a tourist trade today, it was a veritable playhouse for the stars of Broadway throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. Casts of opening shows would head to the Times Square fixture after the curtain fell to await the reviews in the next day’s New York papers. Their presence drew enough hangers-on and celebrity gawkers to make the restaurant and bar a huge success, with sales topping the $1-million mark by the mid-1950s. Attempts to spin off other Sardi’s-brand restaurants and related businesses ended in failure, but the original continued to thrive.
All parties cite the involvement of Vincent Sardi, Jr., as one of the key reasons. The New York Times dubbed him “Mayor of Broadway,” and he held court in his establishment every night. He knew the regular theater-goers as well as the stars they flocked to see during Broadway’s heyday, and defined his duties as making the place as much a part of the Great White Way as the bedazzling marquees on Times Square.
Sardi sold the restaurant in 1985 to two out-of-towners for a reported $6.2 million and entered retirement. The establishment floundered and ultimately closed. Sardi took it over again in 1991, and operated it until his retirement in 1997. His partner,Max Klimavicius, continues to run the business.