Nina Festekjian had long entertained the idea of opening a restaurant with her husband, Raffi, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that they decided to take the plunge. The object of their passion—Anoush’ella—is slated to open in mid-August overlooking Blackstone Square in the South End.
“It was a crazy idea,” Nina says with a smile. “We wanted to stay away from the regular, whatever is served as a Mediterranean cuisine, so our menu is based on home-cooked meals that we developed to be [served] fast.”
Anoush’ella’s concept is fine fast-casual, with m’anoush taking the starring role on an Eastern Mediterranean menu that taps into the Festekjians’ Lebanese-Armenian roots. The m’anoush—a sort of thinner flatbread—is cooked on a pan called a saj and then topped with any number of ingredients before being rolled up into a wrap. The 11 varieties will range from za’atar, filled with tomatoes, cucumber, mint, black olives and pomegranate seeds, to lamajun, filled with a lamb and beef mix, tomatoes, parsley and onion. Five sweet versions will include a chocolate m’anoush with Nutella, strawberry, banana, cinnamon, honey and granola as well as an ashta m’anoush filled with ricotta, honey and banana. Other items on the menu include four salads, three grain dishes, four soups and 11 types of strained yogurt.
“We did our own version [of the m’anoush], making it a little bit thicker to roll the dough,” Nina says. “I learned a lot [of the dishes] from my mom, all the techniques and everything, and some is intuition too.”
The L-shaped restaurant includes a 12-seat communal table running parallel to the bar in the front of the room. The counter for ordering sits in one corner of the space, while more booths and tables are scattered in the back. A 34-seat patio along Washington Street joins the 60-seat interior; customers will find their own seats while they wait for food to be delivered to them. An 18-tap system will include beer, wine and some cordial-based cocktails drawing on a spirit list that will feature arak, an Armenian favorite.
Nina, who has spent more than half her life in the U.S., dug into her background to come up with the restaurant’s name, which means “May it be sweet.”
“It’s about the love and the pride that goes into preparing the food. It’s not ‘Bon appétit,’ but it’s similar,” Raffi says. “When the person says it, it’s about how gratified they are when they’re serving it—especially when the person taking it loved it. It’s very unique to the Armenian culture.”
Anoush’ella 35 W. Newton St., Boston (857-265-3195) anoushella.com