I’ve been going to Sardi’s for more than 20 years. The first-floor bar has been a go-to spot for me in Times Square, and it remains one of my top picks for after-show cocktails. The Cosmo rocks.
I’ve stopped by countless times with my mom and taken my NYC peeps (Heather, Scott, Matthew, Amara), my mother-in-law, and even out-of-town friends. Everyone I’ve brought–– and they’re all ages, mind you –– has adored Sardi’s. This Broadway institution is most famous for hundreds of caricatures covering its walls. If you’ve never been, you’d be amazed at the number of celebrities who decorate the interior.
After attending my first caricature party last month for producers and BroadwayHD founders Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, War Horse, On Your Feet!), I became curious about the history of this legendary theater hangout. When researching, I found a few fun facts about Sardi’s that, even I, as a long-time patron, didn’t know.
|Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane celebrating the first couple’s caricature in Sardi’s.|
Did you know?
1. Founded by Italian immigrants Vincent Sardi and Eugenia Pallera, Sardi’s has been at 234 W 44th St since 1927. In 1921, the pair opened their first restaurant called The Little Place, and it was only a block away at 146 W 44th St.
2. Vincent Sardi hired a Russian refugee named Alex Gard to create caricatures of Broadway celebrities thinking they would attract more customers. Gard drew more than 700 of the portraits in exchange for meals.
3. Sardi’s donated Alex Gard’s first 300 portraits to the Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center, so those no longer hang in the restaurant.
4. Pennsylvanian Richard Barantz has been drawing the caricatures since 1974. The other two artists were John Mackey and Donald Bevan for a total of four illustrators over the years.
5. Today there are more than 1,300 caricatures displayed throughout the restaurant.
6. Sardi’s did not serve alcohol until the 21st amendment had passed, but began by opening “The Little Bar” at the front of the restaurant in 1933. (This bar also happens to be my favorite spot in Sardi’s.)
7. Not every star falls in love with his or her portrait. In fact, when Milton Berle saw the size of his nose in his caricature he went out and got a nose job, and later demanded a redraw. Sardi’s, however, refused to redo it.
8. Sardi’s doesn’t hang the originals. After James Cagney had died, his caricature was stolen from the wall the same day. After which, all portraits on display in the restaurant became copies. That policy still holds true.
9. Sardi’s is where the Tony Award was born. In fact, Vincent Sardi received one of the first awards in 1947 because of his loyalty to the Broadway community.
10. On Seinfeld, Kramer falsely accepts a Tony Award at Sardi’s.
11. In addition, Sardi’s has been featured in more than 20 films and television shows over the years including The Muppets Take Manhattan, Glee, and Mad Men.
12. Vincent Sardi Jr. tried to open another Sardi’s on East 54th Street but it wasn’t a success. A Sardi’s opened in Hollywood in 1932, but it also closed.
New York City will always be the home of the original Sardi’s, and more than likely the only location for years to come. In my book, there’s only one Sardi’s.
|My friend Amara and I pose in “The Little Bar” after the reveal of Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane’s caricature.|