Gernot and Rosemarie Leitzinger, during this time, had been operating the Old Europe restaurant at 663 Lighthouse Avenue, on the corner of 19th Street just across the way from the HartMansion (on one of the four lots H.S. Snodgrass acquired in 1884). Gernot was born in the small town of Kitzbuhel in the Austrian Tyrol where he first acquired his culinary skills at Innsbruck’s famous hotel school. “As I was learning, I was also apprenticing at the different hotels and restaurants in the area,” Gernot told Game & Gossip in a profile of Old Europe in the magazine’s ________ issue. “When I left the school, I headed for Switzerland with all the confidence in the world, where I collected different types of experiences in their fine establishments.”
Among the places in Switzerland where Gernot served his apprenticeships were Bou O’Lac in Zurich and the Hotel Schweizerhof in Davos. Two years later, Gernot returned Austria where he went to work for Prince Auersberg. “It was a beautiful job,” Gernot recalls, “and fairly easy. They entertained for three days then their friends entertained them. The best part of the job was that I got the opportunity to come to the United States for four months while in their employ.”
The Prince had married a wealthy American heiress and moved his entire staff to Palm Beach, Florida. Instead of returning to Europe, Gernot toured through the United States for a month. After returning briefly to Austria to obtain his Visa, Gernot came back to the United States and headed straight to the Bay Area, where he got a job as assistant chef at the Peninsula Golf and Country Club in San Mateo.
There he met Rosemarie nee Bonfert, who he married in 1968. Rosemarie, who came to the U.S. from Germany with her parents when she was two years old, speaks fluent French and German. She studied at the Foreign Language Institute in Monterey and at a university in Heidelberg.
While living in San Mateo, the Leitzingers made frequent trips to the MontereyPeninsula. In 1968, overcome by the attractiveness of the area, Gernot took a job as the food and beverage director for two new locations of the Holiday Inn, one in Carmel and the other in Monterey (at the site of the present-day Monterey Beach Hotel).
It did not take Gernot & Rosemarie long to immerse themselves in Monterey community. Later that year, Gernot entered the Heart Fund Culinaire competition, now known as the Culinary Classique, and won the competition’s Grand Prix. The following year’s event, themed “Night in Vienna,” was featured in the April 15, 1969 issue of Game & Gossip, which reported, “Holiday Inn chef Gernot Leitzinger prepared poached salmon, a roast beef plate with veal, a ham plate and a lard sculpture of Johann Strauss (with a wooden base around which the shortening was molded) to win three prizes this year.”
Winning culinary competitions was not a new experience for Gernot. In 1965, at the National Restaurant Convention, he took first prize in the Senior Culinary Olympics. Years later, Gernot served as President of the Monterey Peninsula Chef’s Association, which awarded him the honor of Chef of the Year in 1980.
Before long, Gernot resigned to take a job as the manager of the Beach & Tennis Club in PebbleBeach, but within a year, he finally fulfilled his dream of opening his own restaurant. “I really started to enjoy myself at cooking when I bought the Swiss Tavern in Carmel,” he told Game & Gossip. “The only problem was that I got claustrophobia in the small quarters and, too, I always felt badly when I had to turn guests away—especially my friends.”
The Leitzingers solved that problem by opening the Old Europe restaurant in Pacific Grove, which seated 40. The menu had changed only slightly from the Swizz Tavern and the two decorated the new restaurant to give it the appearance of a country inn—bright table linens, copper pots for décor, lots of color and flowers. The Leitzingers operated as a working team. “The kitchen is mine and the dining room is hers,” explained Gernot.
The Leitsingers had been operating Old Europe for 13 years when the opportunity to purchase the HartMansion arose. Shortly after the Friedereksen’s left the premises, Gernot made an offer and purchased the HartMansion.
The Leitzingers soon opened Gernot’s Victoria House Restaurant, offering fine European style cuisine. The menu included soups and salads, pate de campagne, escargots, and entrees such as breast of duck with raspberry sauce, rack of lamb, wild boar, several veal specialties, including Austrian wienerschnitzel and veal marsala, beef fillet, and fresh seafood.
Initially, the Leitzingers rented the upstairs rooms of the building, but in 1993, they took occupancy of the upstairs apartment themselves. Within a year after opening the restaurant in the HartMansion, Jacques and Jeneatte Malok purchased the Old Europe restaurant from them. Jacque now manages [Rancho Wine] in the [RanchoShopping Center] in Carmel.
By 1994, the Leitzingers were ready to retire from the restaurant business. In the Fall of 1994, Mark and Gayle Comer purchased the business and operated a tea parlor. When that businesss closed, the Leitzinger’s reopened Gernot’s Victoria House Restaurant, but put the building up for sale.