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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19 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.

      • Donna Radisch Says:

        Small world Tom McGlynn. My Uncle Joe was my father’s 1/2 brother. My Nonno was my dad’s Step Father.

    • Juliet Wittman Says:

      I remember Santo Stabile, but I seem to remember him behind the bar of another place opposite the Ninth Circle, known for the regular carpet of peanut shells on the floor. But I may be confused. And if this is the same Santo, I dated his brother, Angelo for a while.

      • Marco Stabile Says:

        WOW. Thats definitely my Uncle Angelo. What a small world. My father did own another place after he left San Remo. Thats probably where you saw him. La Casa Allegra I think? Anyways, My uncle Angelo died of cancer 30 years ago.

      • Juliet Wittman Says:

        Marco: I’m astonished to hear from you. Angelo and I were together for three years or so (I as 22 when we met), and though we completely lost touch after that, I was so saddened to hear that he’d died thirty years ago. I have a lot of memories of him, and also your father and grandmother. It would be fun to talk more with you if you’re so inclined.

      • Marco Stabile Says:

        Juliet, Pretty amazing that we would have this connection from the past. I would like to say, My father, Santo, married my mother and had me late in life. He was almost 50. He had long moved to Florida. Thats where I was born in 1972.(still here) I never lived in New York or knew anybody from his past, other than family. I grew up hearing stories about his time at San Remos and when “Google” became a thing, I started to look for information on it. It seems everything he told me was true! I will check back here more often to see if you respond.

      • jwittman Says:

        Marco: Your father was somewhat of a legend. It was rumored that though he was always controlled and quiet, he was also very strong and swift moving. Someone told a story–I’ve no idea if it was true–about his response when he was behind the bar one night and a known trouble maker came in. The story was that Santo very slowly and deliberately started moving glasses and bottles out of the way in preparation for leaping the bar. By the time he was removing his spectacles the trouble maker had fled. Neither Santo nor your grandmother approved of my dating Angelo who was married at the time, but very unhappily. The first year Angelo and I were together, I spent Thanksgiving alone. The second year, she sent Angelo to my apartment with a plate of food. And the third year, I was finally welcome at her table. Truthfully, I was quite afraid of her. Santo was cool to me for a while too, but then one night he summoned me over to the table where he was eating, signaled me to sit down, and told me he now supported the relationship because Angelo’s wife was a cold and ungiving woman. There was also a fiery sister, very beautiful, whom Angelo used to call “the gypsy.” I hope Angelo eventually did remarry and was happy. I’m an old woman now. My daughter is a little younger than you, and she has three children. So nice to have found you!

      • Marco Stabile Says:

        This is incredible. I wait so long in between checking back, because I feel like it took years to see all this stuff but, Im definitely going to check even more often. Thanks for responding, it means alot to me. My father and I were very close. I was the only child too. So anything about his past has always intrigued me since I met him so late in his life. Yes I heard all about the bad marriage my uncle had. My father never liked his wife. Needless to say they were divorced since I can remember and my father talked my uncle into moving to Florida with him. So I was lucky enough to grow up with my uncle Angelo. He died when I was about 15. My grandma died at 90 years old. I was maybe 11 or 12. There were 2 sisters, Josephine and Nancy. Im sure the Gypsy was my aunt Nancy. Sadly she died of cancer not long after Angelo. And Josephine died of lung problems due to the years of smoking, somewhere in between. It was hard on my dad loosing his “little brother” and then his sisters shortly after. My dad was the oldest! Thank fully he quit smoking at 60 years old and lived to almost 80. But died of lung complications due to the 45+ years of smoking. He gave my mother and I a great life. They were married almost 30 years before he died. And the older I get, the smarter he was. Im still close to the second generation, both my aunts children are all my first cousins, a little older than me but, we are close. Unfortunately we were not as close to Angelos children, we tried but there was conflict there with the mother. And tragically Angelos son who looked EXACTLY like him died a relatively young man about 10 years ago. He had 2 other girls as well. For the record Angelo never did re-marry, but he had a good life here in Florida with us. Nice to hear about your daughter and grand children. Ive been married about 20 years now and have 3 kids as well. Thank fully my dad was able to see and get to know them before he passed away. My dad told me about the mob influence in the area at that time. Said he was friendly with alot of them. But I see an article on google that says San Remos was mob owned. Makes me wonder what he’s not telling me. LOL. Anyways, it really is a small world and great that we bumped into each other this way….

  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.

  8. Reading a 1960s Village writer’s “Lunch Poems” | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] both were meeting and drinking at bars like the San Remo and the Cedar Tavern, next door to O’Hara’s apartment at 90 University Place (left), […]

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