Umberto’s Clams Up For Good


Elizabeth Zanghi/The Ram After being a prominent staple on the corner of Arthur Avenue for a decade, Umberto’s Clam House officially closed its doors for good this past week.
Elizabeth Zanghi/The Ram After being a prominent staple on the corner of Arthur Avenue for a decade, Umberto’s Clam House officially closed its doors for good this past week.

Arthur Avenue is lined with more than a dozen restaurants, but none ever looked as inviting as Umberto’s Clam House. Its wide-open windows and big blue awnings brought in countless Fordham families. Patrons were drawn in by live music on Friday nights and, at other times, the TVs above the bar, barely visible from the street. Above it all, neon letters lit up in green, white and red as if to challenge anyone who doubted Umberto’s Italian authenticity.  “Umbertos Clam House,” it read, “The Heart of Little Italy.”

Little Italy’s heart stopped beating, just for a second, this Friday, as Umberto’s Clam House shut its doors after 10 years on Arthur Avenue.

For a decade, Umberto’s sat proudly at the corner of 186th and Arthur Avenue as Little Italy’s only full-service seafood restaurant.  Its sliding metal doors are pulled down permanently now, making it look more like a warehouse than a clam house.  A post on the restaurant’s Facebook page thanks the “faithful and truly wonderful customers” for “a great run with good times, good food and most importantly good people.” Callers get a recorded message, saying, “Umberto’s will be missed by many, but never forgotten.”

Chris Pierre, FCRH ’15, agrees.  Living in Fordham’s own Hughes House, Umberto’s was always just around the corner. “They always had a packed house,” he said.

Umberto’s did not reply to an email from The Fordham Ram, but David Greco of Mike’s Deli said Umberto’s closed because the owner was tired of dealing with New York City politics.

“[He’s] sick of dealing with the tickets on Arthur Avenue that we’re infested with,” Greco said. “He’s sick of health department problems.  He felt that the small businessman has no opportunity to make money in America, and he’s at the point where he just could not deal anymore.”

Umberto’s on Arthur was a sister location of Umberto’s Clam House in Manhattan’s Little Italy. The Manhattan location has occupied various locations up and down Mulberry Street since it opened in 1972.  It may be best known as the location where infamous mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo was shot to death, just months after the restaurant opened.

Greco said the owner of Arthur Avenue’s Umberto’s was a cousin of Robert Ianniello, owner of Manhattan’s Umberto’s, which will stay open.

The corner of 186th and Arthur will not be vacant for long.  Joseph Migliucci of Mario’s Restaurant says a new seafood restaurant has bought the space.  He was pleased that the new spot will serve the same fare.

“It’s important to have a seafood restaurant because we don’t have one otherwise,” Migliucci said.

When asked if Mario’s was worried about its business after seeing a neighbor close, Migliucci seemed unfazed.  “We have 14 restaurants on Arthur,” he said. “We do fine.”

But Umberto’s is just one of a few businesses on Arthur popular with Fordham students that has closed in the past year.  Munchiez and Ziggy’s Stardust Sports Café—popularly known as just “Ziggy’s”—no longer occupy their locations near 189th and Arthur Avenue.

Like Migliucci, Greco at Mike’s Deli does not worry about closing, but he says he and the other restaurants on Arthur need Fordham students’ business.  Umberto’s Manhattan location is still open because “the colleges there support it,” he said.