Days before the opening of Lombardi Cucina Italiana, owner Alberto Lombardi is overseeing the restaurant’s set-up. A crew of people is putting the final touches on the interior, to the liking of the restaurateur, who is preparing for a small preview party a week before the restaurant’s official opening. Going on 45 years in business, Lombardi says his eponymous new restaurant is his most “innovative and formal” to date. With a resume boasting concepts like Taverna, Toulouse and KAI, Lombardi has set the bar high for Lombardi Cucina Italiana, now open in The Star in Frisco.
Lombardi’s fascination with the restaurant industry began when he was 14, working his first job in Folli, a small city in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. “The cafe was full of beautiful people,” Lombardi tells Local Profile. “Everybody was dressed well. And since the first day I was in that environment, I said ‘Wow, I want to be around these beautiful people.’”
From there, Lombardi attended hotel management school in Rimini, Italy for two years, before relocating to Berlin. He worked as a busboy for six months before relocating to Belgium.
“I’ve always had an adventurous mindset,” Lombardi says. “I wanted to travel the world at a young age.”
When he later arrived in Oslo, he worked in Norway’s “best French restaurant” before later taking a job on a Norwegian cruise line. On the cruise line, he worked with people of “20 different nationalities.”
“You learn so much spending time around people of different cultures,” Lombardi says.
Following his time on the cruise line, Lombardi went to the U.S. to visit Miami. He had only planned to take a quick vacation in the U.S., but ended up working in Miami for eight months. Lombardi then moved to San Francisco for a year, before later moving to Dallas after his then-girlfriend got a job in the city.
“And then I had my first baby,” Lombardi recalls. “Once you have a family, you say, ‘My God, what do I do now?’ ‘I cannot travel anymore. I need to figure out how to make a living.’ So we decided to stay in Dallas, and it was the best decision, because Texas is the best.”
In 1975, Lombardi managed The Venetian Room in The Fairmont Hotel for two years, before opening his first restaurant, Lombardi, on McKinney Avenue in Uptown Dallas. 45 years after the original Lombardi opening, the restaurateur is bringing back his namesake concept—this time, to Frisco, with an updated menu and cocktails.
Lombardi looks forward to sharing the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a 36-ounce porterhouse steak served with bone marrow, perigourdine sauce and bearnaise ($190). Another plate he is excited to introduce is the Mediterranean Whole Branzino, wood-grilled and served with vegetables bouquetiere ($39).
All of Lombardi’s pastas are made in house, and will be served in dishes like the Tagliatelle Alla Bolognese ($24), the Gigli Alla Carbonara ($26) and more.
Among the cocktails are the Italian Sgroppino, made with nue vodka, sweet lemon, cream and prosecco ($12). Another good choice is the Uncle Frannys Sour, with Duke bourbon, apricot brandy, ginger, honey and lemon ($15). But perhaps one of the more exciting cocktails is the Prosciutto Old Fashioned, with prosciutto-washed Bulleit-Rye, black pepper cordial, angostura bitters ($16).
In the 45 years since Lombardi launched Lombardi Family Concepts, he and his family have opened 39 restaurants. His businesses have survived catastrophes like 9/11 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both of which proved to be massive hindrances to restaurants.
But his proudest accomplishment in these 45 years is seeing his family carry on the business, and being able to spend time with his children and grandchildren every Sunday.
“We run the business as a family,” Lombardi says, “do we treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves. That’s the most important thing. The [guests], when they come to your restaurants, they need to feel that this is their home—meaning, we need to create the right energy and the right atmosphere.”
Lombardi Cucina Italian. 6655 Winning Circle Drive, Frisco. Open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday.