GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

July 24, 2013

Food for Thought: Culinary matron of the Gloucester waterfront

Food For Thought
Heather Atwood

---- — This is a portrait of a perfect traditional Gloucester meal.

Setting: the moon rising over a granite-calm Gloucester Harbor, framed by the masts of the Thomas Lannon, hemmed by the gray sides of Intershell Seafood, Mortillaro’s Lobster, North Atlantic Fish, and Cape Pond Ice, hardworking remainders of the Gloucester fishing Industry, with seagulls tipping against the dusk.

Atmosphere: an eventide hush off the boat-less, lapping waters, the occasional clink of china from inside the restaurant, a few muted voices from other tables’ conversation.

Service: warm and attentive

Wine List: two glasses of summer-evening white wines, both flattering to seafood, a Viognier and a Gruner Veltliner

The Meal: hot, plump, sweet steamers and a warm dish of pink lobster chunks baked beneath a cover of fresh, buttery crumbs.

This was dinner at the Gloucester House a few evenings ago.

I drive by The Gloucester House 10 times a week; it’s such a part of Rogers Street‘s cobbled architecture I don’t even see it anymore. I’ve been dismissing this Gloucester matron as a tourist destination for too long, but after the above serendipitous dinner with out-of-town friends, I learned the tourists know something I don’t — until now.

Run for 35 years by Lenny Linquata and his family, The Gloucester House also operates a wholesale lobster business. Eight lobster boats head out everyday to pull traps, so what better place to enjoy a fresh lobster at a great price? Linquata’s fish come from Intershell, Ocean Crest, and Steve Connolly, Linquata’s brothers-in-seafood on the harbor.

To repeat a bit, my steamers were fat, so sweet they were almost confections, and sandless. Linquata prides his restaurant on having clean steamers, washed a minimum of 5-6 times. As mentioned, the lobster dish was piping hot, chunks of delicious rich lobster dressed in nothing but toasted buttery breadcrumbs and lemon.

The hostess, smiling beneath a large glowing painting of some mid-century Gloucester boys probably on a Gloucester dock, greeted us with a calm warmth almost inexplicable in a busy waterfront restaurant. Our waitress was so cheerful and easily competent, she added pleasure to the dinner without even trying.

I had a short talk with Lenny Linquata the next day. We finished our conversation around 3:30, and the restaurant was strangely already full of small groups and large families happily enjoying plates of fried clams and lobster dinners.

Linquata said goodbye to me rushing, clearly off to his next appointment, but, as I walked to the front door, I heard him behind me say, “Hi, Hon,” and turned just in time to see him pausing to touch the shoulder of a woman probably in her 70s waiting on the bench for a seat.

Call it hospitality or call it grace, the warmth and kindness here feels organic. This alone is one of my reasons to return.

Again, the setting – beautiful Gloucester and working Gloucester – the service, the wine choices all combined to make this a lovely evening out. Even the accompanying Caesar Salad made us happy: crisp romaine leaves tossed in a homemade lemony dressing with freshly shaved Parmesan.

This is not a restaurant review, but a review of one perfect Gloucester meal, and many reasons for declaring The Gloucester House tried and true; it should be a local favorite, not just for tourists.

Rockport resident Heather Atwood writes the Food for Thought column weekly. Questions and comments may be directed to heatheraa@aol.com. Follow her blog at HeatherAtwood.com.