When everyone hung out at the San Remo

In 1950s Greenwich Village, few places were as popular as the San Remo.

Called a cafe but really a bar, the San Remo, at 189 Bleecker Street, hosted a literary-minded Village crowd plus regulars such as William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, and Allen Ginsberg, at left below.

“With its pressed-tin ceiling, black-and-white tile floors and dollar salads with all the bread and butter you could eat, the San Remo attracted a younger, hipper crowd more into experimenting with drugs than The White Horse’s habituées,” states a PBS bio of writer Delmore Schwartz and his favorite bars in Greenwich Village.

“The San Remo, which used to be at the corner of Bleecker and MacDougal in the heart of the Italian part of Greenwich Village, was cool rather than politically and alcoholically inflamed.

“Delmore’s fellow drinkers at the White Horse were ‘hotter,’ more engaged, their ideas forged by the political struggles of the 30’s. The apolitical San Remo crowd were children of World War II and more alienated from mainstream culture by the Cold War.”

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11 Responses to “When everyone hung out at the San Remo”

  1. Nabe News: February 11 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    [...] back at the San Remo Cafe which once graced 189 Bleecker Street [Ephemeral [...]

  2. William Burroughs Says:

    That picture shows William Burroughs at left and the poet Alan Ansen at right. Allen Ginsberg is the one who took the photograph.

  3. Marco Stabile Says:

    My father was part owner of this place for years. Its amazing to finally see a picture of the place he spoke about for years. He past away in 2002. His name was Santo Stabile.

    • Donna Radisch Says:

      My father’s family was the original owners. Frank Santini was my grandfather & my Aunt Betty Santini was probably the one who sold it to your Dad. May they Rest in Peace. My father was John Calcerano & worked there till 1955

      • Kathy Says:

        Donna! Remember when we went there in the 60’s?? You told me all about it! So we went ! Thank you for sending this!!

      • Tom McGlynn Says:

        My Nonni, grandmother, was Edith Raggi, older sister of Betty Santini. Joe Santini and Betty Santini were my great Uncle and Aunt. Donna Radisch, we are definitely related somehow.

  4. dkodeski Says:

    From a collection of letters written by a young gay man in late 40s early 50s NY:

    “What precisely were my reactions toward Sam Remo I don’t know. Delving beneath all thoughts I think I found will uncover a blank, I believe. Or a curious ‘touristy’ interest even though in part I understood and almost sympathized: a weak interest, however. All such strange appearing men and women. Beards on the men, or shaven faces, large breasts and cropped hair on the women. All with deep sunken, dark ringed, empty, empty eyes. Couldn’t hear the talk, don’t imagine there was any of even the forced intellectual variety. Actually with the bar’s walls changed and their ragged, torn, cheap, overly simplified clothes removed it could be a scene from some middle world between earth and hell; a nonchalant, easily posing group of smiling young people. No books. Only cigarettes and beer.

    They keep entering and leaving through the doors – one on Bleeker, the other on Waverly. Around the walls a few smoke stained canvasses poorly executed. There is the usual juke box near the door but it is silent; most of its records are jazz. There are three white globes with some painted scene hanging from the patterned sheet iron ceiling. All dull lifeless and unexciting.”

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    That’s great–is there any more to the letter?

  6. Holly Says:

    My mother has a wonderful story about the San Remo. She was 20 years old, and went in to have a bite to eat at the counter. The man sitting next to her struck up a conversation. He said he was a writer. She said, “what did you write?” In a genuinely non-assuming way, he said, “Nothing you’ve ever heard of. Its just a book about at kid in a red hunting cap.”

  7. Katherine Martin Says:

    The San Remo had a great juke box. I would hang out with my dad there when I was a kid and listen to Miles and Billy Holiday. Even though the conversation was a bit heady, I could sit for hours listening to the adults talk about books or philosophy or local gossip. My dad gave me money to feed the juke box. It was my favorite bar of the five or six that his friends went to. They did serve Italian food.

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