Romano’s, Paris

Romano’s was a famous Parisian Restaurant in the Hotel de la Grand Bretagne that flourished in the Jazz Age of the 1920s.

The Hotel de la Grand Bretagne at 14 Rue Caumartin might have been ever so slightly off the beaten track but the Rue Caumartin did become a major and thriving area in the 1920s. One of the earliest references to the hotel is from 1855 when it was described in Bradshaw’s notes as being a first class hotel in the centre of the finest part of Paris near the boulevards and the new Opera House. The proprietor was a M. Olivier and it had two large courtyards and gardens, reading and smoking rooms, a bar and a restaurant with a celebrated cuisine. Prior to this time it had been known as the Hotel de La Gironde.

Advertising card for Romano Restaurant, Paris
Advertising card for Romano Restaurant, Paris

However, in the 1860s, it did revert to the name Hotel de La Gironde. The hotel did appear to change hands frequently so that by 1900 the proprietor was Henri Auguste Marie Chapon but by 1901 it was back to Hotel de la Grande Bretagne with a complete transformation and modernisation and a new proprietor called Maurice Groja.

It is not clear when the name Romano was used for the bar and restaurant but it was regarded as one of the oldest and most favoured and popular bars in Paris. During the war the bar was a great rendezvous of British aviators and then commercial fliers after the war. It was a very comfortable with luxurious chairs and deep armchairs sumptuously upholstered were dotted around the bar room and the lounge just outside. Adjoining was the large restaurant room that always had lively delightful music playing during dinner and supper.

One of the outside spaces at the Romano Restaurant, Paris (taken from the internet)
One of the outside spaces at the Romano Restaurant, Paris (taken from the internet)
One of the outside spaces at the Romano Restaurant, Paris (taken from the internet)
One of the outside spaces at the Romano Restaurant, Paris (taken from the internet)

After the First World War, the Rue Caumartin along with the neighbouring Rue Daunou became a fashionable locale in Paris and a number of dancing clubs and eateries opened. The first was the Savoy Dancing Club (25 Rue Caumartin) replacing the Caumartin Theatre in about 1919 (it later became the Clover Club in 1921); followed by le Paon Royal (29 Rue Caumartin) in 1919; Le Grand Teddy (24 Rue Caumartin) in 1920 (that became ‘The So Different’ in 1920) and Harry Pilcer’s Sans Souci (17 Rue Caumartin) in 1921 (that became the famous Le Jardin de Ma Soeur in 1922).

With this groundswell of openings of new places it was American’s that primarily led the way. One important figure was M. Jules Ansaldi known simply as ‘Jules’. Born in France, Ansaldi had lived in America and had been a moving force in the restaurant, dancing and cabaret fields becoming a well-known personality in New York. He had operated Louis Martin’s Cafe and then the Sans Souci and had been involved in the early careers of the dancers Maurice Mouvet, Joan Sawyer, Florence Walton and the Irene and Vernon Castle. It was believed that he had joined the war effort when war broke out and was in France for the duration of the war.

Immediately after the armistice it was reported that Ansaldi was opening the Hotel de la Grande Bretagne on 1st July 1919 for Americans. A little later it was reported he was the manager of the hotel. So did he buy the hotel or was he just the manager ? The latter would appear more likely. The Hotel de la Grande Bretagne had always appeared to be favoured by Americans, so perhaps Ansaldi was engaged to maximise this association. At the end of September 1919 Ansaldi entertained a luncheon in honour of the American Beaux-Arts architect Whitney Warren and in November 1920 Ansaldi staged a souvenir dinner dance in honour of the election of the US President with Mr and Mrs Roberto of Palm Beach and New York as host and hostess. Through 1920 and 1921, the orchestra in the restaurant was under the direction of Cesano.

The interior of the Romano Restaurant, Paris
The interior of the Romano Restaurant, Paris

Romano’s was always listed in the French press as one of Les Grands Restaurants along with such salubrious places as Cafe de Paris, Le Boeuf Sur Le Toit, Ciro’s etc etc and yet it was not reviewed or included in the three main guide books to Paris restaurants from the 1920s: Dining in Paris by Sommerville Story (1925), Where Paris Dines by Julian Street (1929) and Paris Restaurants by Robert-Robert (1927), which is strange.

In April 1921, Ansaldi had a major coup. He secured the internationally famous dancer Maurice Mouvet with his new partner Leonora Hughes to dance in the restaurant for a season. The pair opened 12th April for 10 weeks and Romano’s was renamed Maurice’s Dances.

Maurice Mouvet and Leonora Hughes (1920)
Maurice Mouvet and Leonora Hughes (1920)

Mouvet was unquestionably the first star of ballroom emerging in Europe dancing first in Paris, then Vienna, Budapest and Monte Carlo during the period 1905-1908. In 1908 he made his debut at the Cafe De Paris and danced there in France until 1911. In Late 1911 he went to New York and performed for Ansaldi at Martin’s Cafe causing a sensation. Clearly, it was through this connection that brought Maurice to dance at Romano’s. Prior to this he had spent most of 1920 dancing at the Piccadilly Hotel and the Savoy, in C.B. Cochran’s show London, Paris and New York and at the Casino in Deauville.

Their debut at Romano’s was a huge success and the brightly decorated restaurant was filled to capacity with over 300 people. Maurice and Leonora’s dancing was applauded for its ‘interesting originality’ as they combined old and modern dances in their performance. They revived the valse as a speciality danced in costumes of various periods dating back 200 years and showing the contrasts of the ancient and modern movements. The black and white waltz was also a feature with the couple dressed in white against a black background, the salon almost obscure with a projector on the dancers. Maurice also did his famous skating waltz. The waiters at the tables were all attired in blue coats and kinckerbockers with white wigs. Of the two orchestras one American band played regular jazz for dancing but the other, specially imported from Roumania supported the dancing of Maurice and Leonora.

By late 1921 Romano’s was still flourishing. The orchestra was under the direction of Leon Zighera and it was being described as ‘the most cheerful, the most chic, the least expensive of the fashionable restaurants.’ continued It continued to thrive and often had some form of entertainment so that is May 1923 there was the singing of Betova and the dancing of Nasidika and in June 1923 the 8 Academy Girls, English troupe made their debut. An advert at this time said ‘Romano represents Paris by its elegance, its discretion, its wonderful cuisine, an excellent cabaret comprising the best artistes, the latest dances, genuine gaiety and luxury without ostentation, Romano represents, well the true Paris, the Paris of men of taste.’

However, Jules Ansaldi had left Romano’s by mid-1923 and opened his own restaurant called the new Champs-Elysees restaurant at 63 Avenue des Champs-Elysees. In support, Harry Pilcer arranged an Indepedance day fete on 4th July 1923 with the proceeds to blinded war veterans with an array of French and American stars appearing as the entertainment.

A party taking place at the Romano Restaurant, Paris
A party taking place at the Romano Restaurant, Paris

Romano’s continued thereafter through the 1920s with a classical concert by Leon Zighera at dinner, dancing to a jazz band from after dinner to midnight and the attractions of the American bar – that in 1925 was briefly called The Cecil. However, by 1930 listings cease so it is probable that Romano as a destination restaurant came to an end. In 1938 the hotel and restaurant was bought by the Parisian luxury food company called La Doulce France that was a public limited company with a capital of 300,000 francs under a syndicate headed by M. Coutant. It intended to carry on before providing lunches, afternoon tea, dinner and dancing, but it is not clear if this in fact happened.


Bradshaw’s notes for travellers in Tyrol and Vorarlberg, Volume 9 by George Bradshaw (1855)
The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe Lt-Col Newham-Davis (1903)
Dining in Paris by Sommerville Story (1925)
Where Paris Dines by Julian Street (1929)
Paris Restaurants by Robert-Robert (1927)
The Paris That’s Not in the Guide Books by Basil Woon (1926)
Le Temps 4/3/01
New York Herald 28/11/01
Daily News 13/5/11
Chicago Tribune  26/6/19
Chicago Tribune 29/9/19
Aux Ecoutes 6/6/20
Le Matin 10/8/20
NY Herald 31/10/20
Chicago Tribune 30/1/21
Chicago Tribune 13/4/21
Variety 22/4/21
Variety 29/4/21
Dancing Times May 1921
La Petit Blue de Paris 13/7/21
L’Intransigeant 17/12/21
Le Journal 6/2/23
L’Intransigeant 28/5/23
Je Journal 16/6/23
Chicago Tribune 1/7/23
La Petit Blue de Paris 1/11/23
Chicago Tribune 10/4/24
Jazz Magazine 15/6/24
Le Carnet de la Semaine 29/11/25
Le Carnet de la Semaine 20/5/28
Le Temps 10/9/38

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