Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Gino's Restaurant We Will Miss You

Gino’s Restaurant closed last week. It makes me sad. And while this isn’t an advertising blog post per se, it is….

Gino’s Restaurant opened in 1945. It never changed. Gino’s has been part of my life since I was a little boy. My dad, who had an advertising agency, ate lunch there three or four times a week and often took me. As an adult, I would meet him there three or four times a month.

Gino’s, funky Gino’s. It had the most outrageous red wall paper with white and black zebras. It took no reservations, even for large parties (the maitre d’ had the uncanny ability to remember in what order everyone arrived without ever taking down a name). No credit cards (until last year). Waiters who were friendly, but always rushed, if not a little gruff. The same hand written menu that regulars barely looked at. The food ranged from fair to good, but was always consistent. Their prices went up only periodically, so that Gino’s remained a relative bargain. Regulars ate there every day – I know at least six advertising executives who told me that their fathers ate there as often as mine. For them and us, it was home.

What was it about the place? It was consummate New York. It was the ultimate mid-town, affordable comfort restaurant.

And for advertising people, Gino’s was a lesson in branding. Their consistency was their strength. On the day of their sixtieth anniversary my wife happened to have lunch there. They served the original menu at the original prices. Her lunch that day was about $5.00. Funny thing was, that menu was quite similar to what they served sixty years later. About thirty years ago they changed the wallpaper. Apparently, the zebra paper was no longer available. Their regulars went nuts and forced them to replace the new wallpaper with a custom made duplicate of the original. The red background was never quite right but their regulars accepted the slight change.

Gino’s never tried to be something it wasn’t. It wasn’t trendy. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t expensive. It was, just, well, Gino’s. Its consistency was its strength. And with the exception of adding credit cards last year, it never changed. It should be a lesson to every marketer. When you went to Gino’s you always knew what you would get and got what you expected. It was a perfect lesson in branding.

Gino’s is going out of business because the landlord apparently raised the rent to a point that they could not afford to do business directly opposite Bloomingdale’s. It has been in all the New York papers.

So when my daughter, Liz, called me last Monday to ask if I wanted to have a farewell dinner there, I said yes without hesitating.. Gino’s meant a lot to us on a personal basis. It was the last place her grandfather took her to. And in fact, it was where my dad requested to go while he was ill and was the last place he went out to for dinner. Liz and I each had our favorite things – Liz had fettuccini Alfredo and I had paglia e fieno with segreto sauce. (Now that it is closing, perhaps they will give out the recipe for that wonderful secret sauce.)

Liz and I reminisced about her grandfather, my dad. Gino’s was indeed special and had a special place in our lives. No wonder we each had a tear in our eyes as we finished our dinner.

Gino we will miss you. There is and was nothing like it.

I would love to hear your Gino stories.  Here is Liz Gumbinner's from her Mom-101 Blog: Liz Gumbinner's Tribute To Gino


  1. Nice tribute to an 'under the radar' fabulous place which is exactly what made it so fabulous.

  2. Future trips to NYC won't be the same without dinner or lunch at Gino's. From my first meal there in the mid-70s to my final one last year, we never had a bad meal. And there was always "someone" there. Ralph Lauren, Gay Talese, journalists, you name it, they were there at our "private club". Sal, Mario, and the gang will be missed.

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  4. OMG ~ their house chopped salad followed by the orgasmic paglia e fiono with a tomato basil sauce that one would kill for!!! This is a major loss not just to Manhattan, but also to those of us who knew about this "secret" treasure.


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