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The Gatekeepers: Umberto Gibin, Perbacco

This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
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Jennifer Yin, 3/13/08

Since opening in autumn '06, Perbacco has risen the ranks of the Financial District's elite restaurants, quickly becoming a power lunch hotspot and nighttime destination. In fact, one could put in a good argument that these days, Perbacco is a harder ticket than nearby San Francisco heavyweights like Aqua and Tadich Grill. Running the front of house operations at 230 California is none other than the sharply-dressed Umberto Gibin, who just happens to also be the owner.

Umberto Gibin, Owner of Perbacco: Perbacco seats 130 plus 40 at the bar. We also two private dining rooms, one that can seat 18 and a larger one that seats up to 40. Which are your favorites? It depends on the occasion. The Mezzanine level is better suited for business meetings since it is quieter. For romantic dinners, the corners of the downstairs dining room are the ideal tables. I love the Chef table for birthday celebrations.

8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? For a table in either dining room the wait could be up to an hour and half. We are very fortunate to have a comfortable bar were we can seat 16 at the counter as well as 3 high tops and 4 booths were we accommodate many walk-ins. Normally the wait for these seats can vary from 15 minutes to half hour.

Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? If all tables are taken, unfortunately there is no much that I can do. But I will always give you all the options available. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? If one of my host/ss "sells" a table he/she will be in big trouble. If a guest wants to reward him/her because it took less than anticipate getting a seat, I am not opposed to that.

Tell us about your favorite customers? Any celebs been by recently? We are so lucky to have a great number of return guests. They are marvelous people and they continue introducing the restaurant to friends and family. Being located in the heart of the Financial District we see a lot of important Captains of Industry. Most recently Al Gore dined with us. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? We always offer preferential treatment to our partners. Everyone else is a VIP for us. Of course repeat guest will always have a table. ...the owner's friends? I never knew I had so many friends?

What's the most outrageous request from a customer you've had to accommodate? I must say that our guests are relatively easy to accommodate. The most difficult request thus far was to seat a party of 13 on a table that seats 8. Fortunately they all were super thin gorgeous young ladies. ...that you couldn't accommodate? Party of 18 at 7:00pm on a Saturday night wanting to order off the menu.

What's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? They are actually two, patience and compassion. Our guests are from all walks of life. They come to our restaurant to enjoy a great meal in serene and warm atmosphere. They are willing to spend their hard earned money with us. We need to be patient in answering even the most bizarre questions and compassionate to accommodate all their needs.

Perbacco

230 California Street, , CA 94111 (415) 955-0663 Visit Website

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