Dinner at Sardi’s: New York celebrity history, wall to wall

PODCAST The famous faces on the walls of Sardi’s Restaurant represent the entertainment elite of the 20th Century, and all of them made this place on West 44th Street their unofficial home. Known for its kooky caricatures and its Broadway opening-night traditions, Sardi’s fed the stars of the golden age and became a hotspot for producers, directors and writers — and, of course, those struggling to get their attention.

When Vincent Sardi opened his first restaurant in 1921, Prohibition had begun, and the midtown Broadway theater district was barely a couple decades old. By the time the Italian-American restauranteur threw open its doors to its current locaton (thanks to the Shuberts) in 1927, Broadway’s stages were red hot, and Sardi found himself at the center of the New York City show business world.

We have some insider scoop from the old days — starring John Barrymore, Tallulah Bankhead, hatcheck girl Renee Carroll and a cast of thousands — and the scoop on those famous (and often unflattering) framed caricatures. So sidle up to the Little Bar, order yourself a stiff drink and eavesdrop in on this tale of Broadway’s longest dinner party.

PLUS: The birth of the Tony Awards!

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Vincent Sardi and his world-famous wall behind him. (Courtesy NYT)

New York Times

The outdoor garden cafe of the original Sardi’s, which opened in 1921 and was located two doors down from the current location. It was demolished to make way for the St. James Theatre.

The cover of the tell-all 1933 memoir by famed Sardi’s hatcheck girl Renee Carroll and illustrated by Sardi’s original caricaturist Alex Gard.

Tallulah Bankhead, Broadway diva and notorious Sardi’s customer. (Courtesy NYPL)

The failed experiment Sardi’s East, instantly problematic due to its distance from the theater district. Sardi Jr. attempted to solve the problem with a fun-filled double-decker bus — often accompanied by Broadway stars — that would zip diners to their shows after dinner. (source Flickr/edge and corner wear)

Vincent Sardi Jr. and his restaurant make an appearance in the film The Muppets Take Manhattan:

Top picture courtesy Life Google images