Category Archives: Local Life

A look, in photos, of latest area events, local everyday people and places.

Leaving Home: Fair Haven’s Umberto’s

“Alright guys. Time to go home.”

That’s what Silvio Fabbri would have said about the closing after nearly four decades of his iconic Fair Haven pizzeria, restaurant and hangout, Umberto’s, his son Anthony mused in a chat with R-FH Retro early in March.

The embracing hometown haven, in operation since Jan. 4, 1984, with the Fabbri family always somewhere at the helm, was set to close its doors at 10 p.m. on March 28.

They were hoping for a great gathering of community and friends to see them off as they turned out the lights and locked the doors of their Fair Haven “home” for the last time. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the goodbye can’t be quite like that. It’s a bit empty. No gatherings. No handshakes. No hugs. Hearts are full, though, and retain every bit of “home” to keep them full for the Fabbri family.

Yes, “time to go home.” But, what happens when you are already home?

Umberto’s was home. Silvio Fabbri and his family made it their home. They made it their patrons’ home, too. Silvio became an icon to many a Fair Haven kid whose bike could be seen parked there after school, panting garlic knot and pizza breath with every eager pedal “home” for what was likely their second dinner. And they likely passed their parents on the road as they fetched that dinner from Umberto’s, Silvio having memorized their names and orders by heart.

Yes, the place was “home” for many. Silvio, always calm and cool, with a side-mouthed grin, greeting his many mischievous cherubs at the counter with a pizza flip, hand sign and a “Eyyyy … Hanga loose.” And like a parent, he’d often call you out if you hadn’t been in to see him in a while with a “Eyyyy. Why you no come a see me?”

So, in listening to the voice of Silvio in their hearts, the Fabbri family, while they know his posthumous “time to go home” is a consoling, take-it-in-stride push out the door, “home” was always Fair Haven for the Shrewsbury family — at least since 1984 when they came to town to run the place owned by Umberto and Dora Areno, thus the Umberto name.

While many initially thought that the Fabbri’s last name was Umberto, it was not. The name comes from the owner of the brick-and-mortar part of the business — the building. The Arenos also owned the business (part of it all) for the first seven years of the Fabbri family’s time working there — bringing their authentic Italian pizza- and food-making skills directly from “the foothills of Napoli” — running things. They had come to America in 1976.

It was on Nov. 26, 1991 that Silvio and his brother Michele (Michael in Italian) signed to papers to buy the business itself (not the building). They have rented the building from its owners since. Ironically, Silvio’s wife Maryrose pointed out, “Silvio died on Nov. 26, 2014.” An opening and closing date for Silvio. Called home, as they say.

Home. It means something different to everyone. But, what it means to Maryrose Fabbri is a matter of the heart and the power of place in that heart, too. She feels confident it was what was in her husband’s heart all those years, too. Home.

“We didn’t become millionaires with this business,” she said earlier in the month. “We didn’t become financially rich. But we got rich with the heart knowing so many different people here (considering them) and having them all here as our family.

“We joke about our houses in Shrewsbury. We sleep and shower there. But Fair Haven is where we live. The boys did all of their recreational sports, summer camp, everything here. Fair Haven is our home.”

She went on to say that Anthony, who took over running the business with her and uncle Michele after his dad (Silvio) died, wasn’t even 2 when he first came to know Umberto’s and Fair Haven as home. The rest, like Maryrose’s nephew Tony and Anthony’s children, were “born there,” so to speak, she said. It was home. Always.

In just about every home, there are family recipes, too. Family traditions.

Anthony, Maryrose and Michele and the rest of the Umberto’s Fabbri family are sad to leave home. Still, they smile as they say that while they do not want to reveal the new owners’ names, Silvio’s pizza will come with them — a comfort of home.

After coming to the sad reality that they could no longer afford the rent, but bearing no malice whatsoever, and vetting several offers, they sold the business to “a couple of really nice guys who Silvio taught to make pizza,” Maryrose said.

That much they were happy to say. Their fear and resistance in announcing the new ownership was, they said, that people might jump to unwarranted conclusions and would not give them the chance they deserve.

“We just want everyone to welcome them and give them a chance,” Maryrose said. “They truly are great guys. And they’re bringing Silvio’s pizza with them.”

They are also bringing their own great chicken wing recipe. In fact, it’s the same one people to which those who eat at Umberto’s have become accustomed. Silvio “taught them how to make pizza and they taught him how to make chicken wings,” Anthony said.

And there’s nothing like swapping a family recipe from one home to another. Tradition is a comfort recipe. It lives on, more so in this case, as the Fabbri family chose it to be so.

As for home and hearth stories, Maryrose said with a content smile, “there are just too many to talk about. So many. But, everyone knows one or a few to keep in their heart like we do.” And the visits and goodbyes … Coincidentally their very first customer, Matt from Acme, popped in, unbeknownst to anyone, while R-FH Retro was visiting. Then came a former Fair Haven neighbor (of this 54-year resident) and coffee shop icon, Trudi Williams. Moments. Family. Home.

And as with any home, someone is always there to lead the start of the day and end it. Usually, it was Silvio. Now Maryrose. “I’m the first one (now) who walks in the door, usually at 9:45 a.m.” she said. “And I’m the last to walk out. I make sure everyone walks out first before me. Sometimes that’s been 11:30 at night.”

So, on March 28 at 8 p.m., instead of the usual 10, the time it was supposed to happen, the lights went out and the door of Umberto’s was locked for the last time.

“Time to go home,” where your heart is, and “hanga loose forever.”

Thank you, Fabbri family, for bringing the true meaning of community “home” for all of us and our children. There’s no place like it … that slice of life in our hearts.

— Photos/Elaine Van Develde, exclusively for R-FH Retro

** Please, no copying for publication elsewhere, including photo albums to be shared on social media. If you would like a copy of a photo, please message me. Thank you.**

Retro RFH Cheerleader of Charity & Crew Cooking up Some Cheer

Everyone needs a little cheer these pandemic days, right? Area restaurateurs have been cooking up some special comfort food and charity to soothe souls and fill bellies amid the COVID-19 crisis. We heard recently how Chris Wood, known as Woody, owner of Woody’s Ocean Grill in Sea Bright, offered his restaurant’s menu on pay-what-you-can basis.

Continue reading Retro RFH Cheerleader of Charity & Crew Cooking up Some Cheer

Retro RFH Troops Rallying

A little tribe of RFH troops in the 1970s
Photo/George Day

Sometimes it’s just time to call in the troops. For a break. For a laugh. For a reminder of some vigilant banding together laced with fun. Times are tough right now with COVID-19 and its implications, social distancing, virtual school, stress of the unknown and known and fear … growing and waning.

Continue reading Retro RFH Troops Rallying

Retro RFH Tower Players Play Time

RFH Tower Players costumed and playing in 1977
Photo/RFH Yearbook

Just one week ago, the RFH Tower Players were opening their final show of the school year — Footloose. The RFH shows of this era are always billed as Tower Players plays, because, of course, it’s the drama club. But, in the age of the RFH Tower Player dinosaur, playing with the Tower Players was a bit different.

There have always been two productions, a fall drama and a spring musical. The fall drama was a Tower Players play. Tower Players only were auditioned and cast. The spring musical a different, more school-wide production. It was billed as an RFH show, with auditions open to anyone in RFH, casting dance and vocal choruses, lead and supporting role actors and all.

Continue reading Retro RFH Tower Players Play Time

Retro RFH Girls Basketball Slam Dunk

RFH Girls Basketball Team circa late 1970s
Photo/RFH Yearbook, courtesy of Nerphrita Norris

The RFH Girls Basketball team culminated its season as top seed in NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group II. And while the team lost to second-seeded Manasquan recently, the girls team has always been considered champion material.

Continue reading Retro RFH Girls Basketball Slam Dunk

Focus: Sunshine & Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parading

Everyone said it. Sunday was a great day for a parade. And so the marchers marched under sunny skies in the Eighth Annual Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Take a look at some of the sights and folks of the day … (And don’t forget to click in the lower gallery to enlarge and scroll!)

Photos/Sue Hill-Spakowski and Jenny Costello for R-FH Retro

Scene Around: Rumson Dog Daze of Spring

As everyone preps to spring forward in time, Daylight Saving, that is, it was a dog day afternoon of sunshine on the beach for many, yesterday and today.

Rumson dog Nancy (right) took a romp on the beach at Sandy Hook with Winter (left), her dog friend. In the ironic little play date pairing, the two did a little digging and imprinting and found one another’s shadow.

Nancy, the four-legged child of Rumsonite Sue Hill-Spakowski, is quite the poser. She has been seen around the towns making some keen nature observations, having tea and cavorting.

According to Nancy, spring is definitely in the air and in her step. And she’s right.

Predictions for the rest of the week and weekend, according to the National Weather Service, are that, despite a little rainfall Friday after 2 p.m. and a possibility of some snow mixing with it overnight, the outlook for the weekend is a sunny one with temperatures reaching a high of about 53 degrees on Sunday.

Forget the groundhog. Nancy knows all. Where shall we see Rumson dog Nancy next?

See something fun or interesting? Take a snapshot. Send it to us at evd@rfhretro.com and we’ll include it in our Scene Around feature for the area. Send photos with proper credit only. Focus and find the good little things that count in your community.

Scene Around: A Teacher, A Test & A 90th Birthday

Remember when you were a kid and you thought that your probably 40-year-old teacher was ancient? It’s a pretty common notion for young ones. Then they reach their 40s and wonder what the heck they were thinking.

Continue reading Scene Around: A Teacher, A Test & A 90th Birthday

Retro RFH Tower Players’ Tech Week

Another RFH Tower Players show opening, another tech week. So it goes in the theater world, high school or not. This opening is for the musical Footloose and, yes, it goes like that. This week is tech week. And while tech week has always been run during the week of the show, there are lots of techie differences from decades ago to now.

Continue reading Retro RFH Tower Players’ Tech Week

Retro RFH Food for Food Fight

Rainy days and Wednesdays getting you down? Nothing like compounding the rainy day doldrums. Well, if the mood fits … reminisce about the old days as a Junior Lounge lizard at RFH.

Continue reading Retro RFH Food for Food Fight