Ristorante Umbria In San Francisco Closing Its Doors

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Iconic San Francisco restaurant to lose its lease and close May 1, 2017 after 21 years in business

Ristorante Umbria currently pays $12k per month. That rent will nearly double come May 1st.

"I Left My Heart on Second and Howard: a tale of the City" by Valerie Caccia

“The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay, the glory that was Rome is of another day...” Such is the tale of Ristorante Umbria on Second and Howard Streets in San Francisco, set to close its doors in just a couple of weeks. This beloved South of Market institution is the successful brainchild of Chef Giulio Tempesta.

If you’ve ever tasted Giulio’s homemade secret family recipe lasagna, named after his godson, Marco Belinelli, the Italian basketball player selected 18th overall in the 2007 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors (live feed from Umbria to Marco’s hometown in Italy), tried to navigate the lunch crowd lined up every day by 11 A.M., touched down on Tony Salvadore’s KNBR bench, caught sight of a celebrity like Spike Lee or Sharon Stone, or starred in a selfie with Giulio, then you understand his royal community of Umbria.

Born in Foligno, Italy, an ancient city in the central region of Umbria, Giulio, as a young man, served as a police officer when his country was going through what he refers to as a “tough time.” Wikipedia refers to it as the spontaneous political movement that arose in Italy in 1977. On August 16, 1977, Giulio arrived in New York City, with a one-way ticket and a dream. He remembers the date because it was the day Elvis Presley died. He tells the story of being so excited at hearing the flight attendant welcome everyone to America and then being a bit confused when she sadly reported that “The King” had died. A refreshingly naïve and open Giulio turned to the woman next to him and asked, “America has a king?”

These are tough times for Ristorante Umbria. After over twenty-one years in business, they are losing their lease. “It’s happening all over the City. No one can afford to do business here anymore. Rose Pistola in North Beach closed last month. Lefty O’ Doul’s. Lulu’s, gone. Caesar’s, Butterfly on the waterfront, gone. My good friend and long-time great customer, Mr. Adolf Gasser, closed last Friday. He’s been here sixty-seven years.”

As a native San Franciscan, one can empathize with Giulio’s heartache. The City ain’t what she used to be. Sadly, this is not an all-together new reality, but it does seem more like the norm now, than the exception. One can’t help but ask, where is the heart in San Francisco? Surely, it has been in Ristorante Umbria for over two decades. “I never missed a payroll. Not in twenty-one years. I was never late. Not even in the early years, when I had to sometimes dig into my own pockets. Everyone always got their paycheck.” The majority of his staff has been loyal to Giulio for nearly 20 years, which may explain the consistently good food. Why exactly is this person not welcome in our City?

Ristorante Umbria currently pays $12k per month. That rent will nearly double come May 1st. Adding insult to injury, no one even offered them the opportunity to stay. If only Ronn Owens could put Giulio’s landlord in the hot seat. The raising of commercial rents with no real rhyme, reason, or regulation makes it almost impossible for little neighborhood restaurants like Umbria and friends to survive. Without them, without their diverse cultural backgrounds and offerings, what is our City “High on a hill, it calls to me” actually saying? Are we even having this conversation, or are there no tables with white tablecloths, left to sit at and talk anymore?

It seems the flavor of the City is more engineered these days than authentic. Ristorante Umbria removed the candles years ago when they were visited by the City to pay a candle tax on each candle on the table. One wonders where people will go now for Da Mayor’s Special (The Honorable Wille Brown), Capellini Alla John D. Newman, Insalata Casareccia Alla “Lee Hammer,” or The Larry Baer Burger, in honor of the CEO of our San Francisco Giants. Should people just stop listening to Tony Bennett altogether?

The answer is found in the spirit of Giulio himself, “Twenty years ago, I told my then wife and still business partner Michela that I knew we could make it in that location. Yes, all that was across the street was a camera shop and an empty parking lot, but I just knew. I told her, ‘because, it’s the sunny side. The sun shines over here.’” And shine, it has. Despite the fact the LinkedIn Building, a 26-story glass building now towers above Umbria where the old parking lot used to be, the restaurant is busier than ever. Which brings to the forefront the saying, “You don’t have to see the sun, to know it’s shining.” That golden sun will no doubt shine for Giulio wherever he takes Ristorante Umbria, which is scheduled to re-invent itself in the Wine Country sometime in the near future. #WheresGiulio

Just another tale of the City...

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Jay Skowron
Hospitality Defender, LLC
+1 888-951-3105 Ext: 101
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Michela Tempesta
since: 06/2013
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