You never know why some restaurants make it and others never get off the ground. Then there is the special category of restaurants that stick around forever and ever.
Da Umberto opened up around the early 90's. Could have been 1990. I know this because when Da Umberto opened it was on of the darlings of the openings that particular year. Tough to get a reservation, always crowded, the latest happening spot. I went many times because at that point of my life I always had clients in town for about one week a month. That was my opportunity to check out the latest and greatest because although I didn't have the income to check out the hot spots, I did have a company account for taking out the clients. It was sweet.
I describe Da Umberto as an upper east side restaurant downtown. Italian owners with Italian waiters. Always a variety of specials each night ( no need for a menu ) and a huge antipasto table. Wonderful service. Old world. Many places like this on the upper east side that many people call their kitchen but they are few and very far between downtown.
Last night, we returned. I don't think I had been to Da Umberto in 15 years. The place still looks fresh. The service is still great. The concept is still the same and it works.
We went with people who know the owners and frequent the restaurant often. He chose the first two courses for us and we were on our own to pick the main course. We began with a plate of antipasto. Braised leeks, roasted brussel sprouts, sliced mozzarella with tomato and basil, pan fried large shrimps, roasted red peppers and a plate of meats with chunks of parm. Classic Italian. Everything was delicious and simple. That would have been enough for me but more kept coming.
Our second course was pasta. 3 flat ravioli's stuffed with chopped mushrooms and a creamy truffle sauce over the top. Rich, rich, rich. I have pretty much given up that type of food in my life but once in awhile I can't resist. The only problem is that it gives you a food hangover the next day.
I went with the swordfish. I asked for no garlic so the waiter asked me if I liked balsamic vinegar. I do and so he said he'd make something for me. That is why Da Umberto continues to succeed. My swordfish ( although a tad over cooked ) came with a nice balsamic sauce. One bite and I hit the wall. I felt bad but between the antipasto and pasta, I was so done.
Today I have food hangover but it was really fun. Nice to return. Impressive staying power. Nice vibe. My guess is that Da Umberto will be around for many years to come. Not sure I would have predicted that in 1990.