Pizza. Pasta. Piano. That’s the motto at Giuseppe’s Ristorante in Gloucester—the North Shore’s only piano bar.
There’s something pretty cool happening on Main Street in Gloucester. Many townies (and a few folks from Nashua) know all about it. Now it’s time to spread the word far and wide around the North Shore.
Joe Gnerre, Jr., has a long history as a piano player, including years spent traveling and performing. But when he started a family, he decided it was time to stay home. That’s when the idea to open his own piano bar took shape, and it wasn’t long before he found just the right place for it.
Christened Giuseppe’s Ristorante & Piano Bar, it is something of a tribute to Joseph Gnerre, Sr., who first opened his place in 1945. His Sicilian-style pizza (still made today) earned him a favorable reputation in Medford and beyond.
Joe and his fiance?e and business partner, Memory Layne, bought Giuseppe’s in June 2010 and have since gained a devoted fol- lowing. There are locals who show up every weekend to snag a spot by the piano; others frequent September through June, then stay away until tourist season dies down. May through October sees an influx of retirees from Florida. “It’s funny—we know people’s patterns by now,” says Layne.
Joe works the kitchen, tends bar, and entertains, while Layne manages the administrative duties and sometimes sings. In the evenings, she is a fixture at the front of the house and that, she says, is her favorite place to be. “It’s become our family,” she says, “[and] it’s our social scene. It’s not something I expected when we first opened, but it really feels good to both of us.”
Layne and Gnerre please their crowd at Giuseppe’s Ristorante & Piano Bar in Gloucester.
For Joe, playing music makes him happiest. “He loves sitting down at the piano every weekend and seeing all the same faces,” says Layne. “He plays and sings— they call him ‘The Human iPod.’” His specialty is music from the ’40s and ’50s, but he does a lot of ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, too.
The restaurant’s 1914 Knabe grand piano was originally owned by Joe’s Uncle Barney who, for 50 years, served as music director for the Beardstown, Illinois, school system. Upon retirement, he wanted Joe to have his piano, but on one condition: Joe had to be able to play well enough to deserve it. He did.
Giuseppe’s calendar includes Singer/ Songwriter Shuffle nights. Most participants are locals, but there are a few from Boston, too. “To be standing there in the evening and to see [so many] local musicians in the same room, it’s been really fun.”
The couple is clearly community oriented. They recently raised money on behalf of Gloucester High School’s Dock- siders. “When we do a fundraiser night, 10 percent of the sales benefit the cause,” says Layne. “I especially love doing the youth music fundraisers.”
In January, after Gnerre and Layne marry, they hope to start a voice competition, to which 10 singers commit to six weeks; they sing to a track, have a weekly genre, and are judged by local musicians and business owners.
As if they weren’t busy enough, the duo has started catering. It’s a small operation, but, as with everything they do, it’s popular. And, if there is a piano at the venue, Joe is happy to play. giuseppesma.com