The Spirit of Durgin-Park

 

Celebrating 43 years of service at Durgin-Park, head server and shift leader Gina Schertzer embodies in spirit a Boston that is surprisingly accessible, and in person, a city’s resilience as well as its far-famed traditions. Gina was hired as the first female bartender back in 1976 when Martin Kelly owned the oldest restaurant in Faneuil Hall. “Back then, the bar was four deep, with wise guys on one side, the FBI on the other and the produce people in between and we all had so much fun. People would come in from all over the world. And in those days if you were at my bar, you could take the receipt up the back stairs and get seated right away even if there was a long line,” said Gina.

 

Growing up in Watertown, MA, only 10 minutes west of Boston, Gina came from a large Italian family where dining was culturally mandated, and meals were served at 5 pm on the nose every day except Sunday when dinner was served at 1 pm and the whole family attended. "In those days blue laws prohibited a lot of the amenities we take for granted today. We had shops closed on Sundays, no TVs, no cell phones, no mircrowaves so dining was a huge part of our entertainment and every dish was made from scratch, which is probably why I love Durgin-Park. Nothing is back door, nothing pre-made like other restaurant's clam chowder, and we’re a casual, family friendly place.” said Gina.

 

Gina’s not the only Durgin-Park staff person with a special seniority. Judy Alimontei, her longtime friend, has served at Durgin-Park for 39 years, and Frank Cirigliano, Christiana Pepin, Rochelle Mazoni and Laura Seluta around 20 years. Felix Hernandez, Carlos Ramos and Rene Oliva started working at Durgin-Park in 1989.

 

Among celebrities who have visited Durgin-Park her favorites are Tom Cruz and John Travolta. She remembers Mr. Cruz paying for everyone’s dinner and was impressed by how down to earth both men are. Her face lights up when she mentions her favorite customer, Mr. Carl Barron. “His father started bringing him to Durgin-Park when he was four years old and it became his home away from home. Mr. Barron ran many successful businesses and brought in people from all over the world. Having been fixtures at the restaurant, he and his family came to Durgin-Park until his death at 98. And today his son continues his legacy,” said Gina.

 

Gina’s attachment to Durgin-Park is felt upon meeting her. When tourist groups visit, Gina will be the first to show them how to eat Lobster. Said Gina: “I love to recommend the broiled seafood platter with seasoned crumbs on top. It’s a combination of baked stuffed shrimp, sea scallops, Atlantic salmon tips and schrod. Every entrée including sandwiches comes with a choice of 2 sides, like seasonal vegetables, real mashed potatoes, and of course Boston’s best baked beans. We serve authentic made-from-scratch Yankee recipes and locally sourced seafood. We have one of the oldest restaurants in the city with its own character and everything we serve is fresh.”