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da Umberto Ristorante

Opening Hours
Today: 12:30–3pm,5–10pm
Thurs:
12–3pm,5–10pm
Fri:
12–3pm,5–10:30pm
Sat:
12–3pm,5–10:30pm
Sun:
12–3pm,5–10pm
Mon:
12–3pm,5–10pm
Tues:
12–3pm,5–10pm
Location
107 West 17th Street
Neighborhoods
da Umberto Ristorante 1 Italian Chelsea

Da Umberto has never needed a sign outside its door. According to Vittorio Assante, the restaurant’s gregarious owner: “Either you knew about it or you didn’t.” Opened by his father, “the great restaurateur” Umberto Assante, Vittorio took over after his father passed away in 2004.

But Vittorio's immersion in the restaurant industry began far earlier. He vividly recalled being twelve years old and dressing in a proper suit and bow tie to help in the kitchen. Where some kids might have resented having to work, he thrived. “I loved it — I couldn’t get enough. I practically ran the place by the time I turned seventeen.”

Da Umberto is an elegant space that has remained largely unchanged since it opened its doors in the 1980s. With classic white tablecloths and dimmed lighting, the place oozes old-world charm, while a window at the back offers diners a peek into the bustling kitchen — a feature originated by Umberto, according to his son. Vittorio has preserved much of what endeared Da Umberto to the neighborhood in its heyday. The wine racks, the timeless Tuscan gold walls, and even some staff members have been fixtures in the restaurant for over thirty years.

Vittorio credits his dad with teaching him his recipes — many of which are still on the menu today, although these days the classics are mixed with his more modern creations. Regulars insist the main attraction is the table heaped full of antipasti, which dominates one side of the restaurant, along with the iconic dessert cart. The tiramisu remains a firm crowd pleaser amongst the distinguished clientele that has continued to visit through the decades. “Some things I don’t mess with.”

As he added his personal flair to the business, Vittorio continued to honor his father’s memory with a portrait that overlooks the dining room. “I have my father’s traditions mixed with my own evolving sensibility.” In fact, he attributes much of his continuing success to his father’s influence. “My dad taught me so much: those old school values of hard work and taking nothing for granted.”

Umberto chose to open on 17th Street for convenience, as his second wife’s parents owned the building, but the decision was a risky one. He was a pioneer in a neighborhood that was desolate. It was certainly not the kind of place that you would walk around, let alone have an elegant restaurant. Still, the restaurant prevailed “through dedication, grinding it out all the time, having the passion, and loving what you do even on the difficult days. We learned to just get back up and keep on fighting.”

It was the work ethic that his dad instilled in him that helped Vittorio ultimately achieve his dream of purchasing the building. Coming full circle, in 2015, Da Umberto cemented its place in the neighborhood. “My father would be happy. He would say, ‘Bravo Vittorio.’

Location
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da Umberto Ristorante 1 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 2 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 3 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 4 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 5 Italian Chelsea
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da Umberto Ristorante 7 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 8 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 9 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 10 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 11 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 12 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 13 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 14 Italian Chelsea
da Umberto Ristorante 15 Italian Chelsea

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Gene's 1 Italian undefined

Gene's

There is nothing contemporary about this white tablecloth Italian restaurant where a simple rose sits in a vase on each table. How refreshing to make a reservation and be able to dine in a relatively quiet room, enjoying classic Continental cuisine. Brothers David and Danny Ramirez have worked diligently to preserve the old-world feeling that began back in 1919 just a few doors down, where Gene opened the original restaurant. In 1923, he moved to No. 73 where, for a few years, he operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Through wars, recessions and more, Gene's has thrived.... and since 1979, when the brothers' father took it over, they have strived to maintain the same character and quality of food and decor - the original wood bar stands proudly right up front. It is obvious that people in the neighborhood appreciate their efforts, as David told me that some patrons have been dining here steadily for over thirty years. And why not, for the food has remained consistent all this time. The same chef now for thirty-two years has been cooking Clams Casino, their signature dish, a variety of pastas, veal parmesan, chicken piccata and many other classic entrees. Chatting with David one afternoon when the restaurant was quiet, he shared some childhood memories with me. Growing up in the family business served him well. He began as a bus boy, and was groomed to take over a few years ago when his father retired. One of the best stories, for me, though, was about a gentleman who has been eating lunch here for years, each week dining with a different guest, but always ordering the same thing - three bowls of their vichyssoise soup - a favorite of mine too.

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Shareen 1 Bridal Vintage undefined

SHAREEN

Today, Shareen Mitchell is a bicoastal business owner, a sought-after entrepreneur with fourteen employees and a celebrity following. But no one would have guessed it eleven years ago, when Shareen was, in her own words, “broke, in debt, and selling at a flea market. ” That flea market booth soon grew into a 7, 000 square foot vintage warehouse in LA, and within a few years, Shareen had expanded to New York City. In spite of her success, Shareen’s location on West 17th Street is one of the best-kept secrets in Manhattan. Hidden away on the second floor of an old walk-up, the only sign of its existence is a red dress hanging from the fire escape, and sometimes—like the day I visited—not even that. Fortunately, a friendly employee from the salon next door pointed me in the right direction, but if I had not been in the know, I would have missed Shareen entirely. This secret location may seem like a bad business decision, but it is actually one of the keys to Shareen’s success. Her stores have always fostered a sense of exclusivity, and Shareen told me that her warehouse, especially in the early days, was not only the hottest vintage store in LA, but also a gathering place for a society of hip young women. “It was a crazy, fun secret, ” she told me. “No one knew where they were getting their vintage. ”Because there are no dressing rooms at Shareen—women change out in the open—both store locations have the same “no boys allowed” policy. But the resemblance between Shareen’s two stores ends there. While the LA warehouse is constantly buzzing with youthful energy, the New York location has a quiet, sophisticated feel that caters to a slightly older crowd. The reason for the difference, Shareen explained, is that by 2009, many of her original customers at the LA warehouse were now young professionals living in New York City. “They told me there was nothing like Shareen in the city, ” she said, “so I decided to test the waters. ” She opened a shop in a train station parking lot on Long Island, above an auto shop. “People like Ivanka Trump would get off the train, ” she told me, laughing, “and walk into this auto shop with their dogs and babies and everything. ” But after a while, the trip to Long Island became exhausting, and Shareen decided to open a location in the city. “It was kind of a secret, ” she said. “I had no money for a sign, so I put the red dress out on the fire escape. ”Though she did not put much effort into the store’s exterior, Shareen transformed the inside. The former apartment is now an elegant retail space, filled with ornate mirrors and old-fashioned couches, and yet it still manages to feel warm and welcoming. One large room is devoted entirely to wedding dresses, while another two rooms are filled with vintage clothing of all kinds, from evening gowns to 1950s prom dresses. When I asked Shareen about the bridal section, she told me that the store is in the process of transitioning. “A lot of my clients are starting to get married, ” she told me, “but they don’t want to look like traditional brides. ” These young women, many of whom get married in unorthodox venues—upstate farms, Brooklyn lofts, and Manhattan rooftops—are looking for unique dresses that will express their personalities. Over the past few years, the demand for these “indie wedding dresses” has grown so much that Shareen predicts that the store may soon be entirely bridal. “A year ago, we were half bridal and half vintage, and now it’s more like seventy-thirty, ” Shareen told me. “We’re double-booked on the weekends with brides. ”The New York location may be transitioning into bridal wear, but Shareen insisted that the store will not abandon its vintage roots. Along with her bridal collection, which is all under $2, 000, many of the wedding dresses for sale in the store are reworked vintage. Shareen added that her collection is designed to flatter all kinds of body types, to celebrate women rather than inhibit them. She always tells her brides, “I want to see you looking beautiful, not you in a beautiful dress. ”