David Bowie was one of the most beloved — and recognized — stars in the world, but off the stage, he lived a quiet and low-key life with his family in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
“He was a very reserved person, very kind in the eyes,” Danilo Durante, who owns local Italian café Bottega Falai, tells PEOPLE about Bowie, who died Sunday from cancer at the age of 69. “He would sit here and write, scribbling away in a little notebook. Considering how he was singing and acting on stage — a rockstar, you know — he was a normal guy.”
Over the years, the “Starman” singer stopped into the restaurant “all the time,” adds server Adriana Guerrero. “He was very friendly, like a regular person.”
The star also frequented McNally Jackson Bookstore in his neighborhood, where he would bring his daughter Alexandria (with his supermodel wife Iman) and Duncan (from his first marriage to Angie Bowie).
“He was startlingly nice,” says Allison Glasgow, who’s worked at the bookstore for 11 years. “He just looked like this friendly Irish guy. I was always struck by how completely unassuming [he was]. He would walk into the space and you wouldn’t know it was him until he opened his mouth.”