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Coordinates: 40°45′28.48″N 73°59′15.12″W / 40.7579111°N 73.9875333°W / 40.7579111; -73.9875333

Sardi's entrance: rows of caricatures are visible through the upstairs windows
Restaurant information
EstablishedMarch 5, 1927
Food typeContinental
Street address234 West 44th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue)
CityNew York City
StateNew York
Postal/ZIP Code10036
CountryUnited States
WebsiteOfficial website

Sardi's is a continental restaurant located at 234 West 44th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, in the Theater District of Manhattan, New York City.[1] Known for the hundreds of caricatures of show-business celebrities that adorn its walls, Sardi's opened at its current location on March 5, 1927.

Creation and early years[edit]

Melchiorre Pio Vincenzo "Vincent" Sardi Sr. (born in San Marzano Oliveto, Italy on December 23, 1885; died November 19, 1969) and his wife Eugenia ("Jenny") Pallera (born in Castell'Alfero, Italy on July 14, 1889) opened their first eatery, The Little Restaurant, in the basement of 246 West 44th Street in 1921. When that building was slated for demolition in 1926 to make way for the St. James Theatre, Sardi and Pallera accepted an offer from the theater magnates, the Shubert brothers, to relocate to a new building the brothers were erecting down the block. The new restaurant, Sardi's, opened March 5, 1927.[citation needed]

When business slowed after the move, Vincent Sardi sought a gimmick to attract customers. Recalling the movie star caricatures that decorated the walls of Joe Zelli’s, a Parisian restaurant and jazz club, Sardi decided to recreate that effect in his establishment. He hired a Russian refugee named Alex Gard (1898–1948) (born Alexis Kremkoff in Kazan, Russia) to draw Broadway celebrities. Sardi and Gard drew up a contract that stated Gard would make the caricatures in exchange for one meal per day at the restaurant. The first official caricature by Gard was of Ted Healy, the vaudevillian of Three Stooges fame. When Sardi’s son, Vincent Sardi Jr. (1915–2007),[2] took over restaurant operations in 1947, he offered to change the terms of Gard's agreement. Gard refused and continued to draw the caricatures in exchange for meals until his death.[citation needed]

Height of popularity[edit]

Sardi's neon sign

Frequent mentions of the restaurant in newspaper columns by Walter Winchell and Ward Morehouse added to Sardi’s growing popularity. Winchell and Morehouse belonged to a group of newspapermen, press agents, and drama critics who met for lunch regularly at Sardi’s and referred to themselves as the Cheese Club. Heywood Broun, Mark Hellinger, press agent Irving Hoffman, actor George Jessel, and Ring Lardner were also Cheese Club members. In fact, it was Hoffman who first brought Alex Gard to Sardi's for lunch at the Cheese Club table. Gard drew caricatures of the Cheese Club members, and Vincent Sardi hung them above their table. It was then that Sardi recalled the drawings at Zelli's and made his deal with Gard.

The restaurant became known as a pre- and post-theater hangout, as well as a location for opening night parties. Vincent Sardi, a theater lover, kept the restaurant open much later than others in the area to accommodate Broadway performers' schedules.

Alex Gard, who created more than 700 caricatures for the restaurant, died in 1948. After Gard, John Mackey took over drawing for the restaurant but was soon replaced by Don Bevan. Bevan did the drawings until 1974 when he retired, and was replaced by Brooklyn-born Richard Baratz,[3] a banknote and certificate engraver by profession. Baratz, who lives in Pennsylvania, continues to the present day as the Sardi's caricaturist. As of 2005, there are more than 1,300 celebrity caricatures on display.[citation needed]

According to actor Robert Cuccioli's spokesperson Judy Katz, in an interview with Playbill: "On the day Jimmy Cagney died, his caricature was stolen from the Sardi's wall. Since then, when drawings are done, the originals go into a vault, and two copies are made. One goes to the lucky subject of the caricature, the other up on the Sardi's wall. This way, potential thieves won't have their moment."[4]

In 1979, Vincent Sardi Jr. donated a collection of 227 caricatures from the restaurant to the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.[citation needed]

While the Sardi family was Italian, their restaurant's cuisine is not; rather it tends toward "English food",[5] a Continental menu. In 1957, Vincent Sardi Jr. collaborated with Helen Bryson to compile a cookbook of Sardi's recipes. Curtain Up at Sardi's contains nearly 300 recipes ranging from a grilled cheese sandwich to a Champagne cocktail. By 1987, however, Zagat was describing the food as "a culinary laughing stock." One customer who was surveyed called Sardi's "the longest running gag on Broadway."[6]

In 1932, a Los Angeles location of Sardi's opened on Hollywood Boulevard, where it was similarly popular with celebrities. It has since closed.


The ground floor dining room, with celebrity caricatures lining the upper walls

Sardi's is the birthplace of the Tony Award; after Antoinette Perry's death in 1946, her partner, theatrical producer and director Brock Pemberton, was eating lunch at Sardi's when he came up with the idea of a theater award to be given in Perry's honor. For many years Sardi’s was the location where Tony Award nominations were announced. Vincent Sardi Sr. received a special Tony Award in 1947, the first year of the awards, for "providing a transient home and comfort station for theatre folk at Sardi's for 20 years."[7] In 2004, Vincent Sardi Jr. received a Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre. Sardi's is also the venue for the presentation of the Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as many other Broadway events, press conferences, and celebrations.

The restaurant is today considered a Broadway institution, to the point that composer Stephen Sondheim pointed to it when lamenting the changing climate of New York theater in a 2000 interview. Asked about the Broadway community, Sondheim replied, "There's none whatsoever. The writers write one show every two or three years. Who congregates at Sardi's? What is there to congregate about? Shows just sit in theaters and last."[8]


In popular culture[edit]



Movies that have filmed scenes in Sardi's include:



Books that have referenced Sardi's include:


Songs that have referenced Sardi's include:

Radio broadcasts[edit]

On March 8, 1947, Vincent Sardi Jr. began a radio show broadcast live from the Sardi's dining room, called Luncheon at Sardi's. It was hosted originally by Bill Slater. Subsequent hosts were Tom Slater, Ray Heatherton and Arlene Francis. Currently, on WOR Radio, Joan Hamburg occasionally does broadcasts from Sardi's.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sardi's". 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  2. ^ New York Times, January 5, 2007, "Owner of Sardi’s Restaurant Dies at 91"
  3. ^ Richard Baratz
  4. ^ Lefkowitz, David (October 28, 1997). "Cuccioli Gets His Moment -- On Sardi's Wall, Oct. 28" Archived 2008-02-16 at the Wayback Machine. Playbill.
  5. ^ Vincent Sardi Sr. with Richard Gehman. Sardi's: The Story of a Famous Restaurant (Henry Holt and Co., 1953)
  6. ^ O'Neill, Molly (Nov 2, 1990). "The Curtain Goes Up Again at Sardi's". New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  7. ^ "The Story of the Tonys". The Official Website of the American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards. Retrieved January 23, 2007.
  8. ^ Rich, Frank (March 12, 2000). "Conversations With Sondheim". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2008.


  • Vincent Sardi Jr. with Thomas Edward West. Off the Wall at Sardi's (Applause Books, 1991) ISBN 1-55783-051-7
  • Vincent Sardi Jr. with Helen Bryson. Curtain Up at Sardi's (Random House, 1957)
  • Vincent Sardi Sr. with Richard Gehman. Sardi's: The Story of a Famous Restaurant (Henry Holt and Co., 1953)

External links[edit]