Sardella’s Ristorante Italiano in Newport will be open for the thirty-eighth consecutive Christmas Day. The tradition started on Christmas Day 1980. It was a record cold Yuletide. Days and nights of record below-zero temperatures resulted in Newport Harbor freezing over. Burst water pipes plagued downtown restaurants that could not open even if the owners planned to which they did not.

The few places that were open that Christmas were in the hotels – the Viking, the Treadway, and the Sheraton-Islander. Richard Sardella was entertaining some holiday guests and they were trying to find a place to go for dinner late on Christmas afternoon. The party soon realized they had very few options. Sardella brought his guests to his newly opened restaurant which was closed for the holiday. He went into the kitchen and cooked a steak dinner for his friends. The lighted eatery kept warm by its wood stove brought people to the front door asking if there were tables available. More would-be guests telephoned. Sardella heard opportunity knocking and phoning. The following year he opened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, serving a special menu that in the ensuing years changed very little, including roast duck, scallops and shrimp, and steak – served Fiorentina style with an olive oil rub, garlic and fresh rosemary.

Sardella’s will be open this Christmas Day for its traditional holiday hours, from 3:00 to 8:00 pm as well as on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve from 5-10 pm. In addition to Chef Kevin Fitzgerald’s regular menu, he will create some festive holiday specials. Reservations are a must. To make reservations, visit or call (401) 849-6312.

Sardella’s Restaurant, founded in 1980 by former Newport Mayor Richard Sardella, specializes in Northern and Southern Italian cuisine. Many of the recipes on the menu come from the Sardella and Imbriglio families. The current owners are Richard Sardella and Patrick Fitzgerald. Sardella’s has been recognized as “Best Italian Restaurant” by Rhode Island Monthly and Newport Life magazines. Sardella’s is located at30 Memorial Boulevard, West, in Newport, RI. Regular hours are dinner only, 5:00 – 10:00 pm, seven nights a week. For reservations, call 401-849-6312. For more information, visit Al fresco dining is available during the summer months.