San Francisco Loses An Icon: Enrico Banducci Gone But Never Forgotten

enrico-banducci.jpg

Picture courtesy of The City Star

One of the most vital reasons why San Francisco and not Oakland has a “there, there” is it’s people. Enrico Banducci, pioneer of the outdoor cafe beat era revolution in North Beach, was one of the brightest stars amongst San Francisco figures with huge historical impact. Enrico established his famous cafe “Enrico’s” at a time when the city was transforming from 50’s sock hop generation to 60’s radical change. Banducci died in his sleep Monday at the age of 85 years young.

In a wonderful article by Anthony Ganter in “The City Star”, a small neighborhood publication in San Francisco, Ganter describes Banducci as “. . . the impressario genius who introduced America to the rebel comedians of the 1950s and early 1960s. . . ” Enrico opened the famous Hungry i and Enrico’s opening up a unforgettable chapter in San Francisco history.

Among the many stars who owe a debt of gratitude to Enrico Banducci for their start or his support:

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Courtesy SFGate.com and the San Francisco Chronicle

Bill Cosby, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, Lennie Bruce, Phylis Diller, and many others were part of the Enrico Banducci “flock.” Although San Francisco seems like a city of strangers, as so many of the long time natives either have died, cashed in on their real estate holdings, or moved away, it was people like Enrico Banducci who helped us remember our roots and the greatness that is San Francisco. Rest in peace our friend and my Italian “brother.”

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6 thoughts on “San Francisco Loses An Icon: Enrico Banducci Gone But Never Forgotten

  1. M2,

    Really fun article! I lived in North Beach from 1995 to 2000. I loved the “Vitamin V” story and Gorilla Phil. I used to hang at Enrico’s on occasion as well as “Little Joe’s” for the aircraft carrier sized portions of great grease.

    You did a wonderful job giving background on ‘Duch’ yet the real fun and strength of your story is the insider stories you provide.

    Your article brought me back to a time in my life that I loved: living in North Beach amongst a real community of great people. People like Mark Sodini of Sodini’s restaurant on Green, Matt and Whiz behind the bar at Moose’s (I have known Whiz since our College of Marin days in the late 1970’s) and shooting pool at Gino and Carlo’s with that ragtag bunch made living in NB some of my fondest memories I would NEVER trade for the world.

    Thanks for the rear view mirror of life flashback my North Beach brother!

    dean

  2. I worked for Enrico in the mid 70’s, tending bar and
    cooking next door..
    He was not known as “Duch” like dean says…
    His closely guarded nickname was “Rocky” but
    be care, be very careful when you called Enrico
    “Rocky”…
    He had a temper…but would give you the
    money to open a joint or stake you in
    an endeavor..He liked helping people that
    had an idea or talent.
    ….I miss him. tremendously…Quite an artist!
    ….rakkasan

    • Rakkasan,

      That is a great story and insight into the man. Thank you for correcting me and bring forward Enrico’s “real” nickname! We all miss Enrico who was a living San Francisco legend!

      dean

    • I too worked at Enrico’s in the mid 70s (72 & again in 74), as a night waiter. I remember Bill Cosby pretending to be a waiter and taking orders. Bartenders were Charlie Foster and Ward Dunham. When were you there?

      • Bill,
        Thanks for the comment! That is a great story about Bill Cosby. I didn’t make it into Enrico’s until 1995 when things began to wane a bit. Great place, excellent atmosphere but at time the bartenders were tough on anyone who didn’t understand how to respect them or their waitstaff.

        dean

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