By Staff reporter
First published in The Sydney Sydney Morning Herald on June 30, 1966
RETREAT FROM ROMANO’S
A marble bust of Napoleon which for nearly 30 years dominated the entrance to Romano’s restaurant in Sydney was sold yesterday to an unnamed buyer for $560.
The massive Carrara marble carving was knocked down in three minutes in a noisy, turbulent auction at the restaurant.
And when it had been sold Romano’s - once the smartest dining-out spot in Sydney — finally died.
It was a sad and rather tawdry farewell to an establishment which for so long has given so much pleasure to so many of Sydney’s top people.
Now the building which houses it in Castlereagh Street is to be demolished.
With the pale, brooding bust of Napoleon an astonishing variety of chattels were offered for sale.
Among them were grand pianos, carpets, pots, pans, half-burnt candles and a framed portrait of the Queen.
There were waxen artificial flowers in glass cases. There were Christmas tree decorations. There was even a sewing machine and an old gramophone, complete with a record of “The World’s Greatest Melodies.”
The Queen’s portrait was bought by a Mr G. Cooper who owns a restaurant in Collaroy. He carried it proudly into the street and said: “I shall hang it in my dining-room. I think I have got a bargain.”
When Napoleon - lot 427 — was offered bidding opened at $200 and soared quickly to $550.
Then Mr A. R. Buchanan, a grazier and businessman of Prince Road, Killara, raised a finger. He got the bust.
Mr Buchanan said afterwards: “The statue is not for me. I have been acting for someone else. I do not know what will happen to it.”
The 14ft padded bar in the Gold Room of the restaurant went for $105. Carpets which originally cost $14,000 were sold for $725.
All day the selling, conducted by Mr G. Gray, of Harrington Street, Sydney, went on.
As a pair of wooden stools were sold for $2, Beppi Pilotto, for many years Romano’s head waiter, wandered in. He look off his hat as though entering a church and said: “It is very sad, just like the end of an era.”
He is shown above looking at the bust for the last time.
Renzo Romano, son of the founder of the restaurant, also dropped in. “I am not worried by what is happening although I suppose it is a little sad.” he said. “Times change and things change with them.”
Outside in Castlereagh Street two workmen were taking down the electric sign above Romano’s. It was all over.