02 September 2009

Giambelli Is Done and Gone


Giambelli 50th Ristaronte, an old-school Italian mainstay in Midtown East, has closed its doors for good.

I passed by the unassuming red-brick building yesterday. I peered in the window, because I had long been considering the place as the subject of a "Who Goes There?" column. Instead, I found a sign saying: "To all our wonderful customers. Sorry we are closing our doors due to take over by the MTA. Thank you!"

I walked across the street to the Maloney & Porcelli steakhouse and the maitre d' confirmed that Giambelli's was gone for good, and had closed a month and a half ago. (I looked around the web, but haven't seen any news coverage of this). "It's a shame," he said. "We complimented each other for years. When people wanted Italian, I'd send them over there. When they wanted a steak, he'd send them here." He said the MTA seized the property through Eminent Domain for an upcoming construction project.

Giambelli was founded by Francesco ''Frank'' Giambelli, who died in 2006 at the age of 90. He was born in 1915 in Voghera, outside Milan, Italy. Frank came to the U.S. in 1954 to open Giambelli's Ristorante, originally located on Madison Avenue and 37th Street; it relocated to 50th and Madison Avenue in 1960. In 1995, during Pope John Paul II's trip to New York, Giambelli's served the Pope and fifty Cardinals at the Cardinal's residence. The cuisine was northern Italian. The interior had off-white walls, light brown banquettes, picturesque paintings, Classical bronze statues, and riotously colorful floral arrangements. One account said that a long-stemmed rose was given to each female guest.

21 comments:

Anne said...

It's true. I got a lovely salmon-colored rose. The food was pricey buut good and the service impeccable.

happycooker said...

I will also miss Giambelli 50th it was always the best and a most comfortable dining experience, my former husband had been a customer for probably over 30 of its 50 yr history and was fond of Frank and his family . You will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I had our first date at Giambelli's! That was 6 years ago! On a whim, I asked my husband to take me to dinner at Giambelli's in June, and that night we found out about their upcoming closing! I took 2 plates ;o) We miss Mrs. Giambelli and the Gondellas! MMMMMMMMM...

John Evans said...

Frank would not let me pay for dinner for my lovely girlfriend and I after he invited us to his restaurant. A wonderful man, he and Giambelli's will be missed.

Don Smith said...

All the way from Georgia, stumbled in by accident. Honestly great food and kind-hearted accommodating people. Real Italian, and yes, I have been to Italy. It's so sad. It was real New York too. Manhattan is a poorer place.

Bill Ruzzo said...

I was a loyal customer for 35 years.My girlfriend andI will miss the food and seamless service.We always felt more than welcome.Giambelli's closing is like the loss of a friend. Bill Ruzzo

Diane and family said...

So so sad....only found out when recommending Giambellli's to a friend. My Mother's favorite spot in the city.....went there with her and my sisters for years (back as far as 1985......starting going with my husband ten years ago. We were saddened when Mr. Giambelli passed....now this....I will miss my rose!

Mary and Bill Kennedy said...

Yesterday was one of the saddest days for my husband and me. We walked by Giambelli's and could not believe our eyes. Here are the special family events we celebrated there: my husband's
40th, my 40th, our daughter's "sweet 16," my husband's 50th, multiple business parties, many wonderful holiday dinners with my parents, our children, AND our 3 granddaughters, who just loved going there. Mr. and Mrs. Giambelli were so lovely! We feel like a wonderful piece of our lives has been grabbed, and we are sad.

Jeff Nickell said...

My Mom took me to Giambelli's when I turned 16. Mr. Giambelli came by our table and told me he would buy me a glass of champagne when I turned 21. I was from South Florida and I just assumed all New York restaurants were like this -- family oriented, genuine, where the owner came by your table to tell you he appreciated you choosing his place for a special event -- but I've never found anything like it in the city ever since. About 9 years later when I was ready to marry the girl of my dreams we got engaged at Giambelli's and Mr. Giambelli came to our table and bought us a bottle of champagne. With the closing of this restaurant something has been lost -- I will miss this place and what it represented to me.

Anonymous said...

Tonight, while visiting the area to see the tree, I made the sad discovery that my favorite little Italian restaurant was not only closed but completely abandoned! Not a trace of the warmth and distinguished restaurant that my family and friends often visited. Yes...NYC is turning into a slick of chain restaurants, glossy designer store fronts, and bling. I long for the NYC that hosts restaurants like Giambelli that treat their customers with care and serve authentic fine food! We will miss the restaurant, but we have great memories!

jackie said...

i am truly heartbroken.....i was sending a link to a friend's parents visiting new york for the first time when i stumbled across your website. my father was closely acquainted with the charming and always gracious frank giambelli. my family spent many wonderful evenings there. mr g even named a dish after my father! one of my fondest memories is a dinner there in 1995 with my german boyfriend, new to the states. we ordered strawberries with canoli cream and mr g went up to his own apartment upstairs for the strawberries since the kitchen was out of them.......boy, was jen's impressed. he broke up with me shortly after that, but that's another story....lol....but wow, no giambelli....this is very, very, upsetting. the destruction of ny landmarks has unfortunately become all too common in recent years. i was quite upset by the demise of one of my favorite west village restaurants about 6 months ago-the minetta tavern on minetta lane. sad, sad, sad. but i do thank you for your blog and moving tribute to what in my opinion was the best restaurant in new york owned by one of new york's finest gentlemen.

SteveBerens said...

Became accainted with Mr. Giambelli's Mercurio resturant on 53rd and 6th in the late sixties. Could only afford annual or semi annual vists. MoMA took over that building around 1980 and forced him out - took the china to 50th - building remained vacant for a decade. Food and service were actually more special there. Finally met him in 2003 at my stepmother's 75th. Best of luck to his Familly and staff.

Joe said...

I discoverd this gem about 10 years ago when I was searching for a restaurant that served Canneloni, my favorite Italian dish - perhaps my favorite dish of any cuisine. The Canneloni here was the best I've ever had - so creamy and light though very rich at the same time. So sad that this restaurant will no longer fill my Canneloni cravings. I haven't found another restaurant that serves this dish snd I can't imagine I'll find one that makes such a delicious version. With the closing of this restaurant and the demise of the German cart on 54th and Fifth this past year due to the death of one of the brothers who ran the cart my favorite midtown eateries are dwindling. Boo to the MTA!

Anonymous said...

We were shocked to see that Giambelli 50th is shuttered! I have been going there for 40+ years! Just walked by last week while visiting the city, and couldn't believe my eyes!! What a shame!!

sirandrew said...

I retired in 1976 and my office was a short walk. I remember the fine food and service. I remember Frank by the bar cleaning truffles. He would come over to my table with warm greetings and food suggestions.
I lost a button on my top coat and the check room lady sewed it back on.
At the end of my meals he asked where I was going and offered me his car and driver to take me too my next spot.
Many fond memories and a sad loss for food lovers

Anonymous said...

WHAT?
oh my gosh
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
I just found out today
was going to NYC next week
THIS IS TRAGIC :(

---a Canadian Fan :)

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know where the great staff went to? The maitre'd, the waiters, etc. Are they possibly working at another New York Italian restaurant.
Missing Giambelli.
New Yorker transplanted to DC

Anonymous said...

Very sad! Visited there every time I got to NYC! Outstanding food and service! And zabione tableside; no other place that I know did that- and not with pasteurized eggs like CA requires. What a shame

Anonymous said...

So sad it closed
I know it's been years. but this was my GO TO ITALIAN place in NYC
Staff always remembered my name. treated everyone as equals. sad sad sad. I will miss it

Ed Toomey said...

I'm a Bostonian who considered Giambelli's home away from home.Called one night after a very late Broadway show and Frank said get here when you can Mr. Toomey, I'll keep the kitchen open. A piece of me has passed !

Ed Toomey


Anonymous said...

I remember dining at Giambelli's with my mom and her boss in the mid to late 60's. I was about nine years old. My sister and I had a tour of the kitchen, and yes, we each received a rose. I believe the Maitre'd name was Gianni. We also were fortunate to have dined at Lutece and the Leopard restaurants. A different era......thank you Phelps-Dodge expense account! Sublime childhood memories!!!