Italian immigrants Pio Bozzi and John Ganzi opened the first Palm restaurant in 1920. It was originally intended to be named La Parma, but a city licensing clerk misunderstood the thick Italian accent of the founders. The owners found it was easier to change the name than to get the license reissued.
The Palm served as a luncheon and dinner club for members of the city's newspapers for many years. The New York Daily Mirror and King Features (cartoon syndicated) were located on 45th Street between Second and Third Avenues; the Daily News, United Press (later United Press International) and United Features (cartoon syndicate) were located in the Daily News Building on 42nd Street and Second Avenue. The Herald Tribune was on 41st Street and Third Avenue and the World Telegram was on 49th Street and Third Avenue. The proximity of the cartoon syndicates led to the colorful caricatures on the walls. The original Palm consisted of one room at 837 Second Avenue, then it expanded to the second room and eventually to the second floor before opening across the street.
When the Palm opened, it operated as a conventional Italian restaurant offering fare similar to that found in New York's Little Italy neighborhood. Early in its history, however, Bozzi and Ganzi fielded a request for steak and the owners broiled it after retrieving meat from a Second Avenue butcher. As related in the Palm cook book, the first request led to others and the items were put on the menu.
Later, the Palm added Nova Scotia lobsters and aged USDA Prime beef, often served bone-in, as well as a selection of salads.
In 2013, Zagats gave it a food rating of 25.
A defining feature of the restaurant's brand has been the tradition of caricatures covering the walls. Those depicted in the murals are celebrities, famous politicians, as well as prominent sports and media figures.
The Palm's historical materials contend that the caricature tradition began as a twist on the phrase "sing for your meal" where an artist who enjoyed the fare would pay for his meal by drawing a portrait on the wall. Additionally, featured celebrities have often provided an autograph next to their portrait.
Later, as the brand expanded, this tradition continued at other locations.
The Palm opened its second location in Washington, D.C. in December 1972. According to the company's web site, the prodding of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, encouraged the families to open the second location. Bush often quipped that there was a "lack of good American fare" in the capital city.
In 1973, the restaurant's third location, the "Palm Too," opened across the street from the original New York location. During the 1970s the restaurants also expanded to three other cities, Los Angeles, Houston and East Hampton, NY.
The Palm found another home in 2000. The Nashville, TN location opened in the heart of music row. The restaurant is situated across from the Nashville Predators Bridgestone Arena and is a popular hot spot.
In 1980, the company took over the management of two historic hotels, the Huntting Inn and the Hedges Inn, both located in East Hampton, New York. The company also operated its own wholesale meat company, JORM, though now the Company purchases meat from a third party.
Wally Ganzi, the grandson of John Ganzi, and Bruce Bozzi, grandson of Pio Bozzi, are third generation members of the family to operate The Palm, which has expanded into an international restaurant chain.
Today The Palm has approximately 30 locations in cities throughout the United States as well as locations in Puerto Rico and Mexico. The company is the largest family-owned, U.S.-based chain of "fine dining" restaurants.
For frequent guests, the Palm has established a loyalty program called the "837 Club," which gets its name from the street number of the original Palm. Member benefits include discounts on meals, "points" accumulation that can be used to purchase meals, a free lobster on the member's birthday and other offers.
The restaurant's motto is "the place to see and to be seen."
During the summer of 2011, the Palm underwent a brand refresh, which included new tableware, uniforms, signage, and an updated visual identity manifested in a new website and a new ad campaign. Additionally, The Palm incorporated a number of new dishes into its menu to coincide with the brand refresh.
Tony Kornheiser, co-anchor of ESPN's Emmy-winning sports television show Pardon the Interruption and former journalist for Newsday, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, visits the Washington location frequently. In recent years, fans of his eponymous D.C. radio show - who refer to themselves as "Littles" - have been known to send or leave notes for Kornheiser at the restaurant, many of which he reads on the air. Additionally, several of the fan-written parody songs that Kornheiser has featured as part of the show's mailbag segment have centered around the Palm and its prominent role in the host's life.Binns, Brigit Légère (2003). The Palm Restaurant cookbook: recipes and stories from the classic American steakhouse. Philadelphia: Running Press. ISBN 0-7624-1583-5. OCLC 53068942.
Support of Denver's Unauthorized Camping Ordinance
In 2012, The Palm Denver's general sales manager, Wendy Klein, spoke in support of an unauthorized camping ordinance. Since May 2013, various citizen organizations, including Occupy Denver, Move On, and Colorado Foreclosure Resistance Coalition, have protested outside the Denver restaurant. An article detailing these actions and calling for protests at international The Palm locations was recently published.
On October 18, 2013 The Palm Restaurant officially withdrew support for the Denver's Urban Camping Ban Ordinance. In a press release they stated "In 2012, when the Urban Camping Ban (“the Ban”) proposal was presented, we believed it would provide more support in the form of shelters, mental health services, and general assistance for Denver’s growing homeless population.....However, a recent survey of over 512 homeless individuals reported that the Ban,while achieving an improved appearance of central downtown, has done so at the expense of the well-being of Denver’s homeless population."