- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Vincent Sardi Jr., owner of Sardi’s restaurant, the legendary Broadway watering hole, died Jan. 4 of complications related to a urinary tract infection at a hospital in Berlin, Vt. He was 91.

“This is a loss to the restaurant and the Broadway community,” said Max Klimavicius, managing partner of Sardi’s who knew Mr. Sardi for more than three decades. “He was a true gentlemen, 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. 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,” Mr. Schoenfeld said. “They all ate and hung out there. It was the theatrical hangout.”

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

“I never heard anybody say a bad word about him,” he said.

Mr. Sardi’s father started the restaurant in 1921, and the son took over about 1945 after serving in the Marines. Mr. Sardi, who was born in New York, sold the restaurant in 1985 but ended up taking control of it again about five years later. He retired in 1997. His grandson, Sean Ricketts, now manages the landmark eatery, which is adorned with caricatures of celebrities including Martin Short, John Leguizamo, Lucille Ball, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Douglas and Billy Zane.

Mr. Klimavicius said the restaurant’s enduring success proved that the quick-witted Mr. Sardi was more than a personality. He said Mr. 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,” Mr. Klimavicius said. “He was always a good eater, and he loved to try different dishes.”

Mr. Klimavicius said Mr. Sardi visited the restaurant about a year and a half ago and seemed pleased with its condition.

“We had made some changes to the restaurant,” Mr. Klimavicius said, “and he loved the fact the restaurant had been kept the way he would have kept it.”

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