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Innovation and hard work keep Giambelli’s on 50th fresh after 25 years in New York City -restaurant
NEW YORK –Perhaps you have seen Francesco Giambelli on television recently. In a commercial that airs three times a day he “plays” a dapper, savvy businessman who offers inexpensive Gallo wine at his $50-a-plate Manhattan restaurant.
Off screen, Francesco Giambelli is a dapper, savvy businessman about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the restaurant which bears his name. He is described as a teacher, an innovator, an economist and a “papa” to his staff.
At 46 East 50th Street, the second of two Giambelli restaurants has an ideal location. Across the street is the Helmsley Palace Hotel. Down the block on Park Avenue is the Waldorf-Astoria. The headquarters for I.T.T. is a stone’s throw from the restaurant’s front door. But Giambelli is quick to note that location alone does not make or break a restaurant.
“For better or worse,” he says, surveying the 150-seat restaurant, ”this place is a result of the work I have put into it over the years.”
Those years have been long and the work continuous for the 69-year-old restaurateur, who started with a small hotel between Genoa and Milan. In his mid-3o’s, he left Italy, traveled around Europe and in 1956 carne to the United States to open the first Giambelli’s with his brother Alberto. The brothers split up and sold the restaurant, which retains the family name to this day. Francesco opened the 50th Street location and Aberto opened, and later sold, a restaurant called Brussels.
Just three years after its opening, Giambelli’s on 50th was featured in the New York Herald Tribnne as the favorite restaurant of Lucca Buccellati, whose family owns the internationally acclaimed Buccellati silver and jewelry business.
Then, as now, Giambelli’s was profiled for its innovation. Buccellati posed for a photo with a Giambelli creation called a “Kiss,” a drink of anisette with a touch of creme-de-menthe and a coffee bean.
Times have changed, but Giambelli’s has not. Today customers ask to take gondoletti–small pasta creations shaped like boats and filled with spinach and ricotta-back to California for dinner after a long flight home.
As was the case when the restaurant first opened, Giambelli frequently travels to find new foods. Two weeks ago on hbis latest trip to Milan, he brought back 21 kilos of the coveted white Italian mushroom for his restaurant guests, waiting in endless lines at the agricultural! department to do so.
Those who work at the restaurant regard Giambelli with a reverence reserved for a father.
“He is a teacher,” says waiter Jean Ane, “and he keeps on teaching us.”
Ane, like many others–managers Virgilio Gatti and Johnny Camia and kitchen staff Raimondo and Luigi Bernie–have been with Giambelli’s since the restaurant opened 25 years ago. The owner recently acknowledged their contributions when he posed with the entire staff for a full page, anniversary advertisement in The New York Times.
Whlle many of the employees have helped to make Giambelli’s the success it is today, others have left to open their own restaurants. One of the most noted is Adi Giovanetti, whose Li Nido and Li Monello restaurants are known as two of Manhattan’s greatest Italian dining spots.
“He was my teacher from 1960 to 1974,” says Giovanetti. “He made a success out of me and taught me 7596 of what I know.”
Giovanetti describes the days he waited on tables at Giambelli as a time when there were fewer than five northern Italian restaurants in Manhattan.
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