This pandemic has been so, so hard on the restaurant industry. A few months ago, we had to bid a very, very sad farewell to our old haunt Bergamot.
The bar at Bergamot bar was our version of the Cheers bar, where "everybody knows your name". We were good friends with Paul, the bartender and loved catching up with him whenever we were there over an Elizabetta cocktail (for Bryan), and sparkling water (free and unlimited at the bar!).
We loved our staple bar favorites, like the $1 oysters, lobster melt, the rotating butters (my favorite - "everything but the bagel" butter) and the deep fried fish head special (always a good deal!). And then there were Chef Keith's constant attempts at making a good burger . . . some of which worked better than others.
Our good friend Peter (who first introduced us to the restaurant) and his family would often meet us there. In fact, we sometimes joke that his daughter (now seven) grew up at the bar, knowing as a toddler what it takes to make a cocktail ("shake shake") and developing an early love of charcuterie and wine corks.
Our memories of Bergamot went beyond the bar. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries there, attended their special events, and even went on short trips with some of them. We loved how the menu changed frequently (something we miss in Hong Kong!), and we especially enjoyed the creativity and heart that went into the every-morphing menu.
We actually preferred going a bit later at night, when the restaurant quieted down and the staff were less hurried and thus able to hang out with us a bit more.
Then the launch of BISq came along. At the time owner Servio held a kickstarter fundraiser for the restaurant. We ended up supporting BISq by "purchasing" a dinner for eight people cooked right at our home. It was really special to have Dan, Servio, and Paul all at our home, recreating a different version of Bergamot for our friends.
Over time, the staff at Bergamot became like a second family to us. Though they seldom had time off, New Years Day was one of those few days when the restaurant closed. We took advantage and enjoyed several memorable New Years wine dinners with them.
Just imagine . . . a potluck dinner at your house where half the people are really amazing chefs! Needless to say, the pressure for me (a home cook!) was immense. At the same time, the food and wine at these events was unforgettable. I will never forget those special celebrations we had.
When we found out we were moving to Hong Kong, they sent us off with so much love. We had our going-away party for Bryan at Bergamot before he first moved to Hong Kong. We both chose to spend our final night in Boston at the Bergamot bar before stepping on a plane to move to Hong Kong.
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Thanks @chefbergamot for a great final dinner in #Boston @bergamotrestaurant before I headed to the airport back to HK. Always love the seafood that you make (best swordfish in town) and it was fun enjoying so much summer produce. Until next time! #bostonfoodblogger #bostonfood #bostonblogger #tinyurbanboston #somerville #cambridge #camberville
Even after we moved to Hong Kong, we still kept in touch. We made sure to visit Bergamot every time we went back to Boston. Bryan made a habit of bringing interesting beers to give to Paul every time we went back.
When this current pandemic began, we connected online and heard about the current struggles of the restaurant community in Boston. It was during one of these calls that we first learned about the plan to close Bergamot.
The struggle is real and we are in unprecedented times. Restaurant owners have to deal with making hard decisions about when/how to open up, how to cover the costs of the restaurant, whether/how to incorporate takeout/delivery/patio dining . . . all while facing the real, terrifying risk that the virus may spread in your restaurant if just one thing goes wrong. It's an immense amount of pressure to face. Worst yet, there's no end in sight, so eventually you have to pivot or close.
The pivot for Bergamot to B2 was fast. The physical conversion of the space only took a couple weeks. We barely had time to mourn the loss of the bar where we spent many-a-happy times.
The Bergamot space is now B2, a gastropub serving beer from FAB Brewery and offering take-out. This model seems to be much more sustainable during uncertain times like this.
I will always have very fond memories of Bergamot. Although Bergamot as we knew it is gone, the friendships we made there will live on. The next time we return to Boston (God willing!), I'm sure we will visit our Bergamot friends wherever they have ended up. We'll still bring beer for Paul (Paul, we've got some hard-to-get Belgian sour beers waiting for you!), try to catch Servio at Taqueria El Barrio, and visit other Bergamot "alumni", such as Dan Bazz at Terra and Paul & Lydia at Sycamore.
Farewell Bergamot, and thank you for the memories.