Vincent Sardi Jr., owner of Sardi's restaurant, the legendary Broadway watering hole where for decades the New York theater celebrated its opening nights, has died at age 91.
Sardi, who had been hospitalized in Berlin, Vt., died Thursday of complications related to a urinary tract infection, said Max Klimavicius, managing partner of Sardi's.
Sardi's, situated 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 celebrities, 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 like a consummate host.
"I never heard anybody say a bad word about him," he said.
Sardi's father started the restaurant in 1921, and the son took over around 1945 after serving in the Marines. Sardi, who was born in New York, sold the restaurant in 1985 but ended up taking control of it again about five years later. Sardi retired in 1997.
His grandson, Sean Ricketts, now manages the landmark 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.