Nick Monte, a former owner of Monte’s Venetian Room on Carroll Street, died on Oct. 13 at age 90.
Monte’s father, Angelo, opened the Venetian Room in 1906, and Nick and his four brothers owned and operated the restaurant until 1993, according to his nephew, Paul Monte.
The restaurant was a cornerstone of the neighborhood, and not just for food.
“It was a sort of neutral ground,” said Paul Monte, who now manages Gurney’s Inn, a Montauk resort that his uncle bought in 1956.
“You had everyone from politicians and policemen, to gangsters and priests in there,” and Nick “shook hands with everyone who came in,” Paul Monte said.
Tony Bonnet, Liza Minnelli, “Crazy” Joey Gallo and Carmine Persico are some of the celebrities and wise guys whom Nick Monte greeted during the Venetian Room’s heyday in the 1950s and 1960s.
And when the diners were on their way out the door, Monte always gave gifts like a small piece of jewelry or a candy dish to female customers.
During Prohibition, the Carroll Gardens restaurant was a speakeasy that made its own hooch. Underneath every table was a secret shelf to quickly stash a flask of the bathtub gin during police raids.
In 1956, Monte set his sights on the South Fork of Long Island. He took Gurney’s, a modest beachfront hotel, and built it into a luxurious resort with the Skipper’s Dining Room restaurant that can seat 300 people, conference rooms, and a spa, as well as the addition of almost 90 rooms.
Paul Monte said that his uncle remained active as president and chairman of Gurnery’s board until his death.
Monte’s roots were deep in Carroll Gardens. He often delighted in telling stories about the old days, which included swimming in the saltwater pool at the St. George Hotel on Clark Street.
That’s where he got the idea for a spa, telling the New York Times that he drank an ounce of seawater a day to stay healthy.