Gloucester - Fifty years of food, family, friends and community elevates Destino’s from “just” a sub shop to one of Gloucester’s iconic gathering spots.
Visit any time of the day, and you’ll find all walks of life: students on a field trip, senior citizens dining with friends, local carpenters taking a lunch break or neighbors enjoying omelets for breakfast. Now located on Prospect Street across from the Our Lady of the Good Voyage Church, the original Destino’s once stood in what is now the church parking lot.
Alex Destino Sr. opened Destino’s in 1959, promptly after leaving a successful career selling vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias. With six children, Alex decided he needed to work closer to home. Although most locals had never heard of a “submarine sandwich” Alex sold 300 subs the first day they opened, and Destino’s became the first sub shop in Gloucester.
Destino’s quickly became a family business with the current location conveniently providing housing for Alex’s parents and in-laws who lived in separate apartments upstairs. His mother Margaret, whose specialties were making fresh meatballs, sauce and other Italian dishes, walked down a flight of stairs to work for 30 years. All of Alex’s grandchildren worked in the shop, and although Margaret passed away in 1990, her recipes are still used today.
Alex Jr. recalls his father saying, “I opened the doors and the people just kept coming, thank God. They’ve been coming ever since.”
“The first week he opened he hired customers that came in for a sandwich,” continued Alex Jr. with a smile. “Unsuspecting people came in for a sub, and soon after they were wearing aprons and became part of the Destino’s team. I am always meeting people who worked with my family.”
The current owner Jim Destino (grandson to Alex Sr.) said, “I was at Market Basket the other day and ran into a cashier who used to work for us. We said hello and caught up. One thing that touched me is when she said that she always felt like part of the family when she worked for us. I try to work with that idea in my mind.”
“Yes, although Destino’s is family owned and operated, we have many long-time members of our team we consider them to be family,” said Judy Destino, “We couldn’t do it without them. Each one adds something to our service or traditions.”
A well-known Destino’s tradition started in the early days when Alex Sr. began making soup and salad from extra prep foods and gave it away to the customers for free. Free homemade soup and salad with your sandwich has been a staple at Destino’s ever since.
“You can’t get a better value than Destino’s,” said Paul Kirvan, a local carpenter. “I don’t know of any other place that serves a good lunch with a sandwich, soup and pasta for less than $10.”
Apparently, even on the West Coast, people are having a hard time finding a quality steak and cheese sub. According to both Jim and Judy Destino, former Gloucester residents call from California and other parts of the country to have a sandwich mailed to them overnight. The customer pays for the shipping and the Destino’s staff wraps the food in special packaging; separating the steak, cheese and bread. When the customer receives it, he or she heats and assembles the sandwich. Jim and Judy say that no reasonable request is denied when satisfying their customers.
“Yes, I can order a regular breakfast with eggs here,” said Jackie Curcuru, 16, of Gloucester. “But they let me order a lunch sub for a late breakfast because I really enjoy the free pasta and soup that comes with it. It’s delicious.”
On the back wall of Destino’s is a hand painted mural depicting three ships sailing. The mural honors Gloucester’s maritime history, fishing industry and fishermen lost at sea. “I like to sit in the booth under the mural,” said Alice Vincente, 47. “My brother-in-law was a fisherman here years ago. Being out on the water made him hungry and he would come here and eat like crazy after overnight fishing trips.”
Recently the City Council presented Destino’s with a certificate honoring their commitment to the Gloucester community. Alex Destino Sr. was a star football player at Gloucester High School in the 1940s and has a place in the GHS Hall of Fame. During the football season, Destino’s customers can try to predict the score of the game and win a free sub. In addition to supporting local sports, Destino’s gives donations of catering platters to local events and organizations all year round.
“We give back to the community because we are part of the community,” said Jim Destino, “Besides being a good neighbor, it’s our way of saying thank you to Gloucester and our customers.”
Perhaps Margaret McKinnon, 86, summed up Destino’s best as she sat and ate lunch with two friends. “I come here because the staff is friendly, and I can get a good meal at a reasonable price. I can count on this place. I’ve been coming here all my life, ever since Alex Senior opened the doors. It feels like home.”