This Boston Restaurant Owner Is Creating Community with Food

March 13, 2019

After Harvard Law School rejected her application, Rebecca Roth Gullo went to cooking school, and then took a job as a cook in a restaurant in Boston’s South End. And she hasn’t left the neighborhood since. Today she manages two full-service restaurants: The Gallows, a gastropub, and Banyan Bar + Refuge, which serves Asian fusion, and the Blackbird Donuts chain. 

“I live 90 seconds from two of my restaurants and within a four-minute walk of another,” Roth Gullo says. “I see my guests at the park with my kids and when I drop them off at school. I know the cops who patrol the neighborhood. Community is everything to me, and it’s always been an integral part of our restaurants. We have each other’s backs, and that matters so much in today’s fractured times, to know that I’m providing places for people to come together.”

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“There’s an old saying that ‘Boston is a very big town’— not a city, a town—and I believe it. I see it every day in my restaurants.” Roth Gullo points to the hundreds of first dates she’s hosted, then bridal or rehearsal dinners, then anniversary celebrations, and then those same couples coming in with their kids. The idea that her establishments serve as sort of common living rooms for her South End neighborhood is what gives her the most pleasure. “Everyone needs to eat. Everyone needs to get out of the house every once and a while,” she says. “And when they do, we’re there.”

Of course, even the closest communities occasionally need to find some space for a while, and for that Roth Gullo leaves it all up to Inspirato to take her, her husband, and two daughters, age 4 and 6, to someplace very different. “It’s usually someplace tropical that’s a direct flight from Boston and has a beach,” she laughs. “My life is crazy enough raising a family while running a business seven days a week with 150 employees. When I travel, I want easy.”

Right now, the Cayman Islands are her favorite destination. “The residences inside the Ritz-Carlton resort are safe and super kid-friendly,” she says. “At this point, our lives really are all about survival, so anything we can do to make our vacation a true vacation, we do,” Roth Gullo says. “We hire a babysitter or nanny to take care of the kids so we can relax. And we will hire a cook, so we don’t have to worry about when the next meal is and who is making it.”

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When it comes to traveling, Roth Gullo’s young children determine where and how she and her husband travel. Here’s what she’s learned:

First, take your full-sized stroller, not the tiny travel one, and gate-check it. It becomes a luggage cart, shopping cart, beach/pool wagon, and, yes, will cart your tired kids around. Second, take your own car seats. I never want to rely on renting car seats and then finding out they’re not available or they’re not as protective as I expected. And finally, pack your kids’ bathing suits in your carry-on. The first thing to do after checking in is to let the kids go to the pool or beach. It’s a hero move that will be even more heroic if your bags go missing.