The man who left Sardi’s Bar in New York after 55 years

In 1968, Sardi’s restaurant in New York was still enjoying its decades-long heyday, making headlines as the premier venue on Broadway for showbiz people ranging from bigwigs to dreamers and down-and-outs .

Playwrights, agents, publicists and newspaper columnists competed for strategic tables in the dining room, glancing at each other, gossiping, making cutting comments and blowing air kisses. Enchanted tourists were delighted by the presence of Groucho Marx or Liza Minnelli, a Sardi tradition, entering to thunderous applause.

That was the year that a young Croatian immigrant, Josep Petršorić, whose English was not so good, arrived with very little fanfare. Soon he was making drinks for all of them.

But last month, Sardi’s good-natured bartender Petursorik, known to everyone as Joe, ended his nightly Stir, Shake and Pour performance after 55 years.

As impossible as it seemed at the time, in 1968 he immediately felt at home in Sardi. His brother Mike had immigrated to the United States earlier and got a job as a chef at Sardi’s, paving the way for Petršorić.

At age 23, he became a bar boy carrying cases of liquor, and was soon promoted to service bartender, which meant filling drink orders for mostly Italian-speaking servers. He didn’t interact with clients like Jackie Gleason, Lauren Bacall, Sammy Davis Jr., Raquel Welch and Henry Fonda.

In those days, Petsorik said he made 2,000 drinks a day: 150 Bloody Marys, 150 bullshots and countless martinis. “I was like a machine,” he recalled.

Then-owner Vincent Sardi Jr. took notice and called him into his office in 1972. Petrasorik recalls his boss demanding, “Joe, I want you to get behind the bar.”

“I said, ‘Sir.’ Sardi, no, I don’t know enough of the language. I can’t talk to customers.

Sardi won. And so, Petršorić became a fixture behind the bar, except when the restaurant was temporarily closed after bankruptcy in 1990 and Sardi’s was out of business for about 22 months during the COVID pandemic. Was.

When a young bartender mentioned the celebrities who recently came to Sardi’s premiere party for Wes Anderson’s film “Asteroid City” — Margot Robbie, Greta Gerwig, Scarlett Johansson, Colin Jost, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, Maya Hawke, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman-Petersorik shrug.

“I’m not that crazy about celebrities,” said Petrorsik, 78. “To me, they are all human beings, not gods.”

While on duty, Petrasorik remained as alert as an owl, turning his head, his brown eyes searching for anyone who might indicate he wanted another round.

He said, “You don’t know the names, but you know what everyone drinks.” In 1968, martinis cost $1 or $1.25, he said. Today, Sardi’s fee is about $20.

It was humiliating for him to throw drunkards out of the bar. “You politely say, ‘Time to go,’ and they leave,” Petrzorik said.

After news of his retirement broke, regulars began coming to Sardi’s and asking him to bring them another drink for the day.

“I expect to live a long life, but why work?” said Petursorik. “The house has been paid off.”

“Home” is where he was born in 1945, a villa in Krk, Croatia, an island in the northern Adriatic Sea.

His father and grandfather lived to be 98, and his elder brothers are 96, 89 and 80. However, the deaths of two close friends last year left him troubled and called him home permanently. Long divorced, they have two grown children and now three grandchildren; His 62-year-old American fiancee was also with him.

Petršorić couldn’t think of anything worth complaining about, not about his health, his legs, his back, or the salary and tips that led to his career going largely unrecognized.

“I’m happy, but very sad,” he said. “I know a lot of people I’ll never see again. I want to say thank you and I will miss you like a friend, like family. This job was made for me. If I am born again, I will return here.”

By: Julie Bessonen

bbc-news-src:, import date: 2023-09-05 20:30:09

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