Umberto’s aims to be the Italian restaurant of choice

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By Ron Penh

Italian food is a staple of American dining, but the finest Italian restaurants in America owes its success to the mother country of Italy. Umberto’s Italian Restaurant, which recently opened on Sepulveda Boulevard near Venice Avenue, is one such eatery; it’s an established family-run dining business, with recipes guarded and passed down from generation to generation.

This restaurant offers tradition, great taste and meals made with the best ingredients, says restaurant owner Umberto Borgese.

“We bring our recipes from Italy, that’s how we cook,” Borgese said. “All the stuff we make, it’s been with the family for a long time.”

Borgese immigrated with his family from Italy to America in 1967. He was 11 at the time, but already had a keen business sense for tradition and sustaining a restaurant.

In Rome, the Borgese family has operated a restaurant dating back at least 60 years with Umberto’s grandparents, and probably a lot longer, he said. His father maintains a family restaurant in Santa Monica — their first in America.

As a multi-generational restaurant owner, what Umberto Borgese takes to heart is serving authentic Italian meals — with original recipes and fresh ingredients.

Borgese says he’s extremely picky about gathering his ingredients; his produce comes from a farmers markets, fish is purchased early in the morning, and certain items are imported direct from Italy, such as flour and coffee.

“In Italy, our cooking is very important (and) it’s all about pride, so there’s really no shortcuts with that stuff,” Borgese said. “I cook fresh every day, I have delivery coming here every day, I don’t stock anything, I don’t freeze anything, I don’t believe in that stuff… when I’m done with the product, I’m done with the day and I move on to the next.”

The restaurant owner wants to establish his Umberto’s Italian Restaurant as a local biz that patrons can count on for a positive dining experience, Borgese explained. This aspiration has pushed forward the idea of growing the restaurant so it’s also an entertainment hub. Borgese has added live jazz music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 8 to 11 p.m., and a karaoke night every other Friday.

In addition to music, Borgese wants to introduce wine tasting as another experience patrons can enjoy at Umberto’s; this will be an opportunity to look for in the weeks or months to come.

Borgese said he plans an event every month, with November offering a post-Halloween costume contest, which will take place on Nov. 1. Costume winners will receive money to spend at Umberto’s ($75 for the main winner), Borgese added.

Umberto’s has a daily Happy Hour, which offers discounts on food and drinks. The restaurant is located on 3905 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City.