BOSTON – A first time restaurateur and designer, Nina Festekjian, will spice up the South End later this month with the opening of anoush’ella: saj kitchen, a “Fine Casual” Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, inspired by her Armenian-Lebanese heritage.
Located on the corner of Washington and West Newton Streets, anoush’ella will bring a contemporary twist on the classic wraps and salads found in the bazaars and souks (street markets) of Beirut and Aleppo and the streets of Yerevan and Jerusalem. Guests will be able to dine-in or take out. To complement the food, anoush’ella will serve local craft beer and wine as well as signature cocktails.
“anoush’ella” means “may it be sweet” — an Armenian expression for the love and pride that goes into serving someone who enjoys your food and thanks you. The nam underscores Nina’s belief that when food is prepared with love it not only awakens the palate but also enriches the mind and satisfies the soul.
The centerpiece of anoush’ella is the saj, a convex metal grill where chefs will griddle-to-order m’anoush, a thin flatbread used as a wrap for sandwiches as well as an edible scoop for dips, soups, salads, grains, and marinated meats and poultry. “The menu is meant to capture the explosive flavors of Eastern Mediterranean street food of my childhood,” says Nina Festekjian.
We’ve all heard about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. anoush’ella will use the freshest available local ingredients, including organic chicken and antibiotic-free lamb and beef. The signature labne bar is a strained yogurt served with a selection of savory or sweet options. Spices are carefully sourced from select providers from around the world.
The culinary foundation of anoush’ella’s menu is a homemade flatbread wrap called m’anoush (cooked on the saj), that is topped with a variety of ingredients and grilled and hand rolled to order. Additionally, diners can choose from other Mediterranean specialties like hummus, lamadjoun “pizzas,” za’taar chicken, grill koftas and overnight braisd beef. With many salads, soups, and assorted dips, the restaurant is vegetarian-friendly.
The newly constructed space features oversized windows overlooking bustling Washington Street. As envisioned by Nina and designed in partnership with Jim Piatt of Piatt Associates, the restaurant will offer a comfortable yet elegant look designed to be both spacious and inviting – is a brick and mortar metaphor for Nina’s commitment to community and cultural sharing. The interior and its materials reflect this with ironwork details to echo the iron Saj itself, gray ash planking mimicking the weathered wood of the mountains, fire-worn black stone tiles, and contemporary bentwood seating to invoke the comfort of a café in the souk. A large communal table in the center of the space is an enlarged spice box, providing a rich contrast to the fresh meals and bright seasonal dishes that will be served.
There’s a bar and communal table as well as outdoor seating. The restaurant will accommodate about 58 indoor and 34 outdoors.
Though the restaurant is the brainchild of Nina Festekjian, anoush’ella is owned and operated with her husband Raffi.
It was love at first sight for anoush’ella owners Nina and Raffi Festekjian. While both were born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Raffi lived in Boston in the early 1990’s, pursuing a post-graduate career in high tech. On a trip back to Beirut, he met Nina. The couple was engaged after two weeks and now have been married for 24 years. Nina’s background is interior design and fashion, while Raffi built several technology companies and wrote software for financial risk and regulatory areas. Both are avid home cooks. Their individual histories and shared culinary roots come together at anoush’ella, where Nina’s refined aesthetic informs both the cuisine and the décor, and Raffi’s scientific mind fosters connections between the kitchen and diners. At anoush’ella, the Festekjians’ shared love for each other and the foods of their homeland will magically transform your dinner into an unforgettable experience.
anoush’ella is located at 35 W. Newton Street in Boston’s South End. Hours: Daily 11am-11pm. Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 8am-1pm.