This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite hard-to-get tables.
Joe Nigro, more commonly referred to as "Joe the Door Guy," can be found most nights in front of Wink & Nod. Aside from a brief stint in real estate developing, he's been in the restaurant/hospitality industry since he was 11, and he oversees the guests' first impressions. He's also known for his ability to never forget a face.
How did you first get into the industry?
I first started out when I was 11 years old in the North End. My family owned a European restaurant right on Hanover street, and I worked through a series of positions there — everything from busboy to other areas of the restaurant. And then I stayed in the business before I got a little burnt out and started working in real estate development. Recently, I just came out of the events industry. We were a small boutique event planning company out of Charlestown. We had key clients like the Four Seasons, and we did events like weddings and bar mitzvahs, along with other private and social events. It was very interesting to see that aspect of it. I'm really looking forward to doing some events here, like guest buy-outs and private parties.
How are you liking the South End and Wink & Nod?
It's wonderful — it really is. The clientele of the South End has been very welcoming, and it's not just them. It's Back Bay and all of Boston. It's a very international clientele, and it's really interesting to see how families are down here now. Everyone's just been wonderful.
What's the best part about your job?
Meeting people and talking with them. You know, asking them questions and getting to know them. That's the best part. I get the chance to meet extremely interesting people, international clientele, all different areas of business. They're here to relax and enjoy the cuisine and also the craft cocktails. It's nice to see people actually relaxed and enjoying themselves.
I also try to exceed people's expectations when it comes to customer service. I don't wait until people approach me; I'm out there welcoming people from the street and escorting them downstairs to the restaurant. I tell them the history of Wink & Nod and all about the concept. It's all customer service, and they never touch a door. We try to give people customer service that is unlike any other area in Boston.
Any brushes with celebrities?
Oh, that's sort of hush-hush. You know, we try to keep it as private as possible.
How do think this industry has changed over the years?
I think there's a lot of honesty that's coming back; it's more of a focal point. Also, the traditional manners of escorting people to your establishment are coming back in very traditional ways. It's very nice to see that. People are just enjoying themselves. Here, our clientele is dressed very nice, and they want to be seen, and they want to feel good about themselves.
What restaurants do you like to go to when you're not here?
I enjoy going to Merrill & Co., just right next door. I also like Citizen Public House. I also really like trying all the new places. Like in Harvard Square, there's Alden & Harlow. A lot of chefs around town come here, and it's so nice that they do. We also make sure to go to their places, too.
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[Photo: Joe Nigro/Katie Chudy]