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Feb 7, 2013 06:22 PM

Famous Boston hosts and hostesses

I'm thinking of people akin to Elaine Kaufman of Elaine's on the Upper East Side, or Jimmy Neary of Neary's in Midtown Manhattan. Who really knows how to work a room here in Boston?

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  1. Well, you can never miss Deborah Hughes at Upstairs on the Square.

    1 Reply
    1. Formerly, Pietro Valentini at Julien and Rowe's Wharf. Say what you will about Anthony, his customers loved him at one time.

      2 Replies
      1. re: trufflehound

        and much like the soon-to-be-demolished pier 4, that hey-day was 40+ years ago.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          when i first came to boston, i ate there frequently. The food was nothing special, but the wine list was unbelieveable; great wine at fantastic prices. And Anthony was usually there greeting his guests.

          What he did not do, unlike the hosts in NYC, was create a caste of preferred customers versus the hoi polloi. That is something about Boston's restaurant scene; we do not pay to be mistreated.

      2. i think the era of that kind of schmoozer has passed. people would rather meet the chef. both lydia and ming are great at the dining room glad-handing.

        that being said, romeo, now of strega waterfront, formerly of abe & lous', has quite a following, as did dante at the federalist.

        as for running a room? esti parsons and christopher meyers were an unbeatable duo and had some of the best -run dining rooms in the city. places like radius and via matta, where they were formerly partners, are mere shadows of themselves.

        19 Replies
        1. re: hotoynoodle

          It starts and ends with Esti Parsons in my book.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Servio from Bergamot does a good job of running the room, remembering patrons and likes, although in a much more modern efficient style. Restaurants with an owner/chef/host tend to be more attentive to patrons, particularly repeat guests (Rendezvous, Bistro 5, even Estragon although its much larger and gets crowds).

            We recently had an odd experience with an owner awkwardly himself (and interrupting our conversation) at a seafood restaurant and I ended up telling the table about "Dom" from Dom's in the North End. Without any warning he would sit down at patron's table, cross his legs and fidget with his eyeglasses, until conversation halted so he could "guide you through the menu." He would openly criticize patron's choices (first taking off his glasses slowly), although ultimately accept them, unlike Paolo from Scalinatella who is another character from the 90s with good taste who could tank a business dinner with poor table manners.

            The Italian restaurant host who helps you select your entree still lives on and Gran Gusto is a decent example and an good overall host.

            The owner of Cafe Brazil is not much of a host in the American fashion, but very typical for Brazil -- watching the dining room and directing the waitstaff, expediting plates, and of course giving extra attention to tables spending more money.

            1. re: itaunas

              I love the owner of Cafe Brazil - his warm welcome and friendly presence make even a modest dinner there feel special.

              (Speaking of Cafe Brazil, are thy closed for vacation? I pass them every evening on the bus on my way home from work, and they've been closed and dark on several recent evenings.)

              1. re: itaunas

                @ rendezvous, i most often see chef/owner steve johnson out front, so i don't put that in the same category.

                was in estragon the other other night and while chef/owner Julio de Haro was on and off the floor, the woman acting as floor manager was nearly zombie-like in conversation. so odd we all remarked on it again the following day.

                1. re: itaunas

                  Servio is indeed great at remembering people's names and greeting them warmly. It was amusing when we saw him out at Brick & Mortar one night. When we left, he said goodbye to us as if it was his establishment and thanked us for coming. I'm not sure he can turn off his excellent front of the house mindset...


                  1. re: itaunas

                    Totally agree about Servio. Really charming, warm personality in the dining room.

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    Romeo is nice to you as long as you pay him to be.

                    1. re: CocoDan

                      all i said was "he has a following." i am not one of that group. :)

                      1. re: CocoDan

                        Is there something wrong with accepting gratuities when a host or hostess?

                        1. re: libertywharf

                          It depends. I'd be pretty upset if I had a confirmed reservation but was forced to wait for it because a host allowed walk-ins to bribe their way in ahead of me.


                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            I suppose people get bumped for just that reason but the nature of the business entails gratuities.

                            1. re: libertywharf

                              what nature of the business entails gratuities? no doubt it entails people offering them to you, i don't think it entails accepting it, and surely plenty of restaurants would frown on their host doing that... as would, and in most cases should, many customers.

                              i'll admit there are circumstances where its a fine line when it comes to tipping an extraordinary amount to someone like a waiter or bartender in order to establish a rapport and be recognized later, but the notion of someone outright buying entrance to a restaurant strikes me the wrong way.

                              of course, this may only be to say, the types of people who would seek to do that, and the types of places that seek to have that happen, are not the kinds of people and places i would hope to be around, at least.

                              1. re: valcfield

                                We are talking about Schhhtrega Waterfront, after all.


                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                  Didn't this thread start out as a discussion about the front of the pro's that made dining in Boston a great experience? Where have you eaten lately were the staff, owner, wait staff or bar staff left you feeling like you can't wait to comeback for more great hospitality? Let's be positive. Plenty of other places to rant about the negative experiences around town.

                                  1. re: eatinginboston

                                    Well, threads sometimes go off in directions other than where they started.

                                    I personally find the subject of graft-accepting hosts fascinating. Who else in town lets you bribe your way to a table ahead of folks with reservations, and how much does it cost? Does it vary by night of the week? I know how to grease a palm discreetly, but a pricing schedule would be handy.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      Wouldnt' that be a new convesation?
                                      Not an extention of who is doing a good or better yet great job of hospitality?

                                      1. re: eatinginboston

                                        As I said, many threads do not go that way: they ramble all over the place. Sometimes we focus on what's awesome on the scene, sometimes on the less awesome, sometimes, as I have done here, both in the same thread. The Internet will not be bridled.


                                2. re: valcfield

                                  Have you been in the restaurant business or even been connected to it! Tipping hosts is and has been part of the business for years. Just because you may not partake of it, doesn't mean it should not happen.

                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                if there is a cost for a seating, then it should be made clear.

                                i eat at expensive restaurants in Manhattan and Paris but the costs are clear to me before I dine. If i am want to eat at 7 pm, the restaurant should make clear the cost of such a reservation.

                        2. If we are going into the way back machine, I'll throw Kevin Cadigan of Jimmy's Harborside out there.

                          Anthony was a great marketer and knew how to get people into his place. He was just ok inside and down rite rude to people not white. I saw him kick out Brian Shaw, Reggie and D Brown.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: libertywharf

                            kevin caddigan has been a wine rep since before i was born, i think, lol, so jimmy's was a LOOOONG time ago.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Yes, I run into Kevin around the seaport district. He was Jimmy's for years as the asst. Gm but all the regulars went to him rather then Costas, the gm.

                          2. There was Bette at Bette's Rolls Royce in Fanueil Hall. Remember the car but not so much about the food.