The history of Boston dining couldn’t have been written without immigrants. Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian invented Boston cream pie at the Parker House hotel in 1856. German Jacob Wirth’s eponymous restaurant dates back to 1868. Baker Francisco Santarpio (of Santarpio’s Pizza fame) came to America from Italy in 1900. Joyce Chen, who opened her first Chinese restaurant in Cambridge in 1958, was from Beijing.
Today, Boston is a United Nations of restaurants where you can hear Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Malay, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, Farsi, Hindi, Thai and Vietnamese. Thanks to the city’s immigrant restaurateurs and chefs, including the eight profiled here, the local melting pot bubbles deliciously. All Bostonians—wherever they were born—enjoy the gastronomic rewards.
Petit Robert Bistro owner Loic Le Garrec was a French restaurant baby. “I was born and raised in Paris,” he says. “My father was a baker and my mother owned a small brasserie, so I grew up in the profession. I dropped out of high school and went to culinary school.”
Determined to perfect his English, Le Garrec came to the United States in 1997, landing jobs at L’Orangerie in Los Angeles and the renowned Le Cirque in New York. In 2000, he moved to Boston, his then-wife’s hometown, to raise a family. After stints at Locke-Ober and Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod, in 2004, he became co-owner and CFO of Petit Robert Bistro, expanding to multiple locations. In 2015, he purchased the business.
“Authenticity is important,” Le Garrec says. “Today, most people are knowledgeable about French cuisine—even the funny stuff, the frogs’ legs and kidneys and brains, we like to eat. People are traveling more so they understand it better. It’s always been a great motivation to represent French culture.” Up next for Le Garrec: Frenchie, a casual wine bar opening in the South End by Thanksgiving.
Petit Robert Bistro, 480 Columbus Ave., Boston (617-867-0600) petitrobertbistro.com