BEFORE IT WAS ROCKEFELLER CENTER: THE STORY OF TONY’S
John Grygo - November 29, 2016
“It was not considered a violation. Unless you did something else. Unless you had bad liquor. Unless you had the dope. Unless you had the prostitution. But my place was a place where you could an sit down and have the liquor with the bottle on the table” – Tony Soma, 1971
Today if you walk down West 49th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, in the heart of Manhattan, you will be walking next to the historic Rockefeller Center. It’s the home of NBC studios, Radio City Music Hall and a host of entertainment venues that that draw visitors from around the world. But if you took this same walk during the Prohibition Era you would have strolled by Tony’s. Tony’s was a speakeasy and a hotspot for New York socialites, mobsters, actors and politicians. It is even rumored that the celebrated Algonquin Round Table made Tony’s their second home. Owned and operated by Tony Soma — an Italian immigrant, yoga practitioner, and grandfather of Academy Award winning actress Angelica Huston — Tony’s was known for great Italian food, white tablecloths and “liquor of questionable quality served in coffee cups.” Tony operated his speakeasy until 1929 when John D. Rockefeller bought Tony’s building as well as some of Soma’s other properties on the same block . After the purchase, Soma would go on to open another restaurant, a legal one this time, which would became another popular spot for New York night life.
“About The Book.” The Speakeasy King. Accessed September 27, 2016. http://www.erroltonysoma.com/about/.
“Studs Terkel : Conversations with America.” Interview with Tony Soma, 1971. Accessed September 25, 2016. http://studsterkel.matrix.msu.edu/htimes.php.
Lerner, Michael A. Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press, 2008, 127.