Cape Ann Profiles: Lenny LinquataJune 21, 2021 / A Local Favorite, Good to Know, Local Characters
With Permission from Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce | Written by Emily S. Bass and Rita A. Fucillo
Why do we find ourselves drawn to a particular place, whether for a vacation, a second home or to relocate? We often ask, “Who are its people, who will I find when I get there?” Gloucester’s remarkable growth as a destination is based on its history as a working seaport and fishing community and with this storied heritage comes a long list of salty characters and family legacies. Lenny Linquata, owner of The Gloucester House Restaurant and Blue Collar Lobster, and his family are among, well, the saltiest!
Linquata has spent his entire life in the restaurant business and takes a few minutes from his long day to share a few of his family’s stories. “I grew up on the docks and in the restaurant,” says Linquata. “The restaurant business is hard, and you have to be constantly adapting to be successful.” This has certainly been the case—this now-iconic restaurant opened in 1958, and the family’s impact on Gloucester dates back much farther.
Linquata begins at the beginning: “My grandfather, Leo, arrived here from Sicily when he was 2 years old at the turn of the century.” Leo Linquata, like many fellow immigrants, began fishing out of Gloucester as a young boy to help support his family, and worked his way up to captain of the family fishing boat, the Natalie II, a converted WWI sub-chaser.
“He was a true entrepreneur,” recounts Linquata, “and a man of many accomplishments.” In 1930, Leo left fishing and with partners started the Progressive Fish Wharf. He became the owner of the company and at the height of production was buying a million pounds of fish a week and shipping around the country. In 1957, he bought Gloucester’s Tupman Thurlow Fish Wharf, now known as the Seven Seas Wharf, supplying oil to the fishing fleet via his other company, Progressive Oil.
“It was my Dad, Michael, who wanted to build a restaurant on the property. Following his return home as a decorated WWII veteran, he took over the Progressive operations and opened the restaurant in 1958,” says Lenny. “I came aboard as treasurer after graduating from college, and then took over as manager. My Dad was brilliant at promoting, and the restaurant did very well until two major fires in the early ’80s. Those were hard times for us; we had to scramble and get inventive, focusing more on the lobster business just to survive.”
About 10 years later, in the fall of 1991, the “no-name storm” hit and seriously damaged The Gloucester House’s wharves. The Pub—now Blue Collar Lobster—followed shortly after the wharves were repaired, and the Compass Rose Function Room was completed in 2006. “One of the hardest yet most fun times was in the early 2000s,”
Linquata says, laughing, “when we turned the dock into Fun & Games and created Café 7 Seas, for kids and families. We did some really crazy things: crab racing on the dock and blind dory racing in the harbor, even some Velcro sumo games for adults—the dock was packed and that’s how we paid for the bar and events room.”
Today, Lenny wears many hats around the restaurant, from cooking behind the line, to creating new seafood dishes, to ensuring functions run smoothly. He has a passion for politics and local history and is an award-winning raconteur. With his wife Dottie by his side as office and events manager, Lennie and the entire Linquata family are part of the bedrock of Gloucester’s tight-knit community and are beloved for their devotion to Cape Ann.
Linquata reflects, “Gloucester is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and is truly unique: tranquil wooded trails, beautiful beaches, rocky vistas, a working harbor, renowned arts and culture, and the people. I love the people. They are incredibly generous and diverse—everyone supports each other and gets along…like family.”