David Shayt
September 11 Collecting Curator
Museum Specialist, Division of Cultural History

"...his restaurant was cranking, 24 hours a day, every day of the week with volunteer workers and donated food..."
The apron that we have now from Nino's restaurant is a kitchen worker's apron covered with uniform patches. This phenomenon of patches and the phenomenon of national response to 9/11 is reflected in this artifact.

Nino Vendome is a spectacular man. Opened his Canal Street restaurant for the rescue workers of 9/11 on 9/13. From September 13 into May, I believe, his restaurant was cranking, 24 hours a day, every day of the week with volunteers, donated food, producing a quality of food and experience that is important to this day.

How best to capture that kind of response and contribution? Mikey Flowers took me for lunch to Nino's that first visit. I saw those aprons pinned up behind the bar--three spread white cloth aprons loaded like pizzas with patches--from Canada, and England, and the U.S.--small towns and large. So I took pictures, made gracious comments to Nino, and got to know him, got to know his mother and came back a month later and asked for one of the aprons.

The aprons, even one apron unified that story for us very well. There are 65 patches on that apron, from towns like Dayton, Ohio, and Boston, Los Angeles, and Boise, Idaho. Fire, rescue, even civilian work. Patches from Con Ed, from the FBI and the Customs Service, left at Nino’s. They still have aprons, now they have a big full sized picture of our apron in the Smithsonian.

Nino's today is a recovery site for traumatized rescue workers, workers going through post-traumatic stress, who are taken there by their doctors and nurses to cope with their troubles.