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Vincent Sardi Jr., 91; his Broadway eatery was where stage stars were drawn, literally

January 05, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — Vincent Sardi Jr., owner of Sardi's restaurant, the legendary Broadway watering hole where for decades the New York theater district celebrated its opening nights, died Thursday. He was 91.

Sardi died of complications related to a urinary tract infection in a hospital in Berlin, Vt., said Max Klimavicius, managing partner in the restaurant.

"This is a loss to the restaurant and the Broadway community," said Klimavicius, who knew Sardi for more than three decades. "He was a true gentleman, a one of a kind."

Sardi's, located in the heart of midtown Manhattan's theater district, was a magnet for celebrities, particularly in the years before and after World War II, and many of them, especially when they were appearing on Broadway, had their caricatures on its walls.

Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of the Shubert Organization, Broadway's biggest landlord, said Sardi's was once a place where deals and careers were cemented.

"His restaurant was the focal point for meetings in the business," Schoenfeld said. "They all ate and hung out there. It was the theatrical hangout."

Schoenfeld said Sardi was a larger-than-life figure, a beloved man from a bygone era who worked the room and everybody in it with much skill, a consummate host.

Sardi's father started the restaurant in 1921, and the son took over around 1945 after serving in the Marines during World War II. Sardi, who was born in New York, eventually sold the restaurant in 1985 but took control of it again about five years later. Sardi then retired in 1997. His grandson, Sean Ricketts, now manages the eatery.

Klimavicius said the restaurant's enduring success proved that the quick-witted Sardi was more than a personality. He said Sardi was a good businessman who also loved to eat.

"To be able to have the staying power for these years, it's a testimony to the kind of operator he was," Klimavicius said. "He was always a good eater, and he loved to try different dishes."

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