Fashionable and hospitable, Umberto Gibin's Italian charm serves him well as the owner and host of Financial District gem, Perbacco.
Gibin garnered his impeccable people-skills at some of Europe's most high-end restaurants and hotels, including The Palace in St. Moritz and The Caprice in London, before arriving in San Francisco in 1979 (he chased a girl across the pond!). He's had a hand in almost all of the city's high-end Italian restaurants (Ernie's, Donatello Hotel and Restaurant, Ciao, Chianti) and then some (Grand Cafe, Fifth Floor), and made his mark on the California restaurant scene as one of the founding team members of Il Fornaio. Now he's found his niche as the proprietor of fine Italian fare with his very own spot, Perbacco (230 California Street).
Seven years ago, Gibin partnered with Swedish-born chef Staffan Terje to focus on the cuisine of Piemonte – a region of Italy that boasts the country's last royal family and delectable truffles. Needless to say, it was a hit. Now SF socialites volley and place bribes for tables, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and California Attorney General Kamala Harris both rank it among their favorite spots, and Al Gore was even spotted at one of his tables.
None of that fazes Gibin though, who goes about his business in a suit and tie the same way he has been since the 1980s. The dapper man (who owns between 40-50 pairs of cufflinks), has seen the dining scene change over his decades in the food-business, but one thing remains the same, he'll always be there to greet you at the door.
Of course we couldn't help but ask the restaurant-world staple seven essential questions about his life in the Bay Area.
What neighborhood do you currently call home? Would you ever move or are you happy in your 'hood?
Montclair Village [Oakland]. I am very happy in my hood.
What's your hands-down, absolute favorite thing to eat in the East Bay?
Paella with squid ink at Duende.
What's your perfect night on the town?
Dinner and live music at Duende or cocktails at the lounge at the Four Season in SF, dinner at Akiko, and maybe live music at the Independent.
When you need a low-key afternoon, where do you go for down time?
Drive around the Oakland hills, or during the week, the Ferry Building.
What's your favorite place to go on a day trip from Oakland?
Burrito or Burger? Burger
Fenton's or Ici Ice Cream? Ici Ice Cream
Lake Merritt or Lake Temescal? Lake Merritt
The Paramount or The Fox Theater? Fox Theatre
Bakesale Betty's or Brown Sugar Kitchen? Brown Sugar Kitchen
First Fridays or The Oakland Museum? The Oakland Museum
Shopping on Telegraph or in Temescal? Temescal
Three words that describe your life in Montclair?
Relaxing, perfect, awesome.