UD in the Community: Lamberti’s Carries On Tradition
Date published: Feb. 12, 2018
In the 62 years since its founding, UD has put down roots and grown into this shifting
Irving soil in more ways than current students or far-flung alumni often realize:
Irving is increasingly populated by alumni, faculty, staff and their families. In
various Irving neighborhoods (and Irving is much bigger and more diverse than many
students probably realize), in businesses, in schools, in churches, in other organizations
throughout the city: there you will find UD. In “UD in the Community” stories, we
explore these connections.
Lamberti’s Ristorante & Wine Bar in Las Colinas doesn’t serve “authentic” Italian food, per se. Instead, on their
menu you’ll find Italian with a Texas twist, with recipes informed both by Lamberti
family traditions and by ingredients that are grown and sourced locally. As a result,
the flavor profile in Lamberti’s dishes, which are not exactly the same dishes you
would find on a menu in Italy, similarly will be a little different from the food
you would enjoy in a restaurant in Rome or Naples.
“It’s all local,” explained the owner, David Lamberti, BA ’01.
In fact, local is one of the restaurant’s three pillars; the others are famiglia and tradition.
“‘Local’ is Italian,” said Lamberti. “In Italy, the support of what’s local is what
they’ve been doing for centuries. It’s about participating in what’s around you.”
What’s around Lamberti’s happens to include UD, so Lamberti’s was the vendor for this
year’s Groundhog “Party in the Park” celebration; additionally, Lamberti’s is looking into carrying Due Santi Rosso wine from UD’s own vineyard on the Eugene Constantin Campus just outside of Rome.
This connection to UD helps to fulfill another Lamberti’s pillar: tradition. Groundhog, of course, is a UD tradition.
“It’s a unique opportunity to do these things, actualize these conversations — such
as, what could Groundhog be? It could be an even bigger tradition; there’s no reason
to be limited by what it has been or constrained by the past,” said Lamberti.
The restaurant also plans to participate in charitable events with UD and other organizations
in the area.
“If you’re not integrated with the community, then what are you doing it for?” he
asked. “If you’re trying to get rich, you should be doing something else.”
Lamberti’s, in a way, is itself a UD tradition as well.
In 1996, Lamberti, as an undergraduate at UD, needed some spending money, so he got
a job waiting tables at i Fratelli in Las Colinas. He eventually began to take on
management shifts, which was helpful because it was set money rather than just tips.
After graduating from UD with a degree in French, he was accepted into a doctoral
program in French literature at Boston College, but ultimately he moved to the East
Coast for a couple of years and expanded his experience in the food and beverage service
Irving remained home, though, and with a family to support and his own parents and
siblings still here, it seemed like the time to move back — and he went back to work
at i Fratelli, where he became the general manager.
It was a job he enjoyed and was good at, but he wasn’t completely satisfied with his
“I asked myself, what don’t I love? The answer was, well, I don’t love that it’s not
mine,” he said.
With his family and friends, Lamberti began making plans to open a restaurant of their
own. However, it turned out that i Fratelli wanted to shift their focus to their pizza
venture and pay less attention to the traditional in-house dining experience, leading
to Lamberti’s purchase of the restaurant in 2017.
Several other UD alumni and faculty invested in or helped broker the deal to transfer
ownership to Lamberti and transform i Fratelli into Lamberti’s.
“A lot of UD people got together, saw the right thing and made it happen,” said Lamberti.
Lamberti’s is also the employer of at least half a dozen current UD students, who,
like Lamberti himself once, have found waiting tables at Lamberti’s to be a job that
works well with their priorities as students: they can work a few shifts a week, make
$100 or so in tips each night and get a plate of pasta for dinner.
Lamberti appreciates the particular ethos UD students bring to the job.
“There are certain things you don’t have to teach UD kids, even when they’re still
trying to figure out their own lives,” he said. “They understand that it’s about service,
about helping our guests have the best experience possible. It’s not about making
This posture of service, in turn, helps them actually to make more money and has permeated
the culture of the restaurant as a whole.
“It’s a heart of service,” said Lamberti. “Approaching it from that angle makes it
Lamberti’s is in some ways carrying on a tradition begun by i Fratelli, which was
started and owned by four brothers and is largely about family. Lamberti’s latched
on to this passion for the Italian people and culture, and their emphasis on famiglia.
“It’s not my place,” Lamberti said. “We respond to what the guests want; we aim to be the place for approachable Italian food and wine.”
Lamberti wants Lamberti’s to be accessible to the community; if someone wants to come
in and spend $30 on a steak, they can certainly do that, but he also wants, for example,
a family of four to be able to come in, each get a plate of pasta, leave a tip and
still have spent only $40. Further, he wants the guy with the steak and the family
to be able to sit at tables next to each other, with everyone having a great time.
It’s not mutually exclusive; having one or the other doesn’t mean you can’t have both.
"Food, wine, good people together — that’s the tradition we’re continuing,” he said.
If you know of another Irving business, school, church or other organization that
we should feature in a future edition of “UD in the Community,” please email Callie
Ewing at email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Lamberti's Ristorante and Wine Bar.