Tag Archives: Antonio Ninivaggi

New Pearl Splashes Into Longshore

A pearl is a beautiful jewel.

Longshore is one of Westport’s crown jewels.

So it’s particularly fitting that Pearl is the name of Longshore’s new restaurant. And that oysters and clams figure prominently on the menu.

Pearl at Longshore — the full name — opens officially tomorrow (Monday, February 22). But a soft opening last night showed that — more than a year after Splash closed — Westport’s dining and social scene have taken an impressive step forward.

A new entrance for a new restaurant.

A new entrance for a new restaurant.

Last night — in the beautiful new dining room, next to the handsome bar, as the wait staff bustled around — lead owner Marc Backon and his wife Lois described the long journey that transformed rundown Splash into a gorgeous Pearl.

It was Halloween, 2014. Dining at Tarantino, they learned from then-general manager Antonio Ninivaggi that after 18 years, Splash had shut its doors (and the adjacent, once-quite-popular Patio Bar). They were saddened. They’d eaten there often, and both daughters’ 1st jobs were at Splash.

It was not an immediate “let’s do it!” moment. Yet gradually the Backons decided to give Westport back its waterfront gem.

They had no background in restaurants. But Marc has a long career in business, Lois is in banking — and they are smart, committed Westporters.

Slowly, they put together a group of 25 or so investors, mostly from here. The list also included Ninivaggi (who had moved on to Osianna in Fairfield). They hired a crack design team, led by Bilal Barakat, and renowned executive chef Michael Hazen (Bartaco, Barcelona).

The stunning bar is made from recycled glass. Behind it is recycled wood.

The stunning bar is made from recycled glass. Behind it is recycled wood.

The journey was tough. The building — including the kitchen and food storage areas — had deteriorated significantly. A couple of deadlines were missed.

But the wait was worth it. With seating for 55 inside, 70 outside and 18 at the bar; chic, contemporary decor that includes paintings by local artists and a display with Robin Tauck’s Sherwood Mill Pond books, plus a menu that ranges from locally raised oysters to boar, it’s bound to create Westport’s newest buzz.

Locally harvested Hummock Island oysters are a special treat.

Locally harvested Hummock Island oysters are a special treat.

The patio is not yet finished. That’s okay. It will be ready this summer.

Hey, it takes 3 to 7 years for an oyster to produce a perfect pearl.

This one is ready after just 1.

The town of Westport owns the Pearl at Longshore property, and rents it to operators. Among the diners at last night's soft opening were 2 town officials who helped oversee the renovation from Splash to Pearl were (far left) former Parks and Recreation chair Steve Haberstroh, and (right) 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

The town of Westport owns the Pearl at Longshore property, and rents it to operators. Among the diners at last night’s soft opening were 3 town officials who helped oversee the renovation from Splash to Pearl: (far left) Parks and Recreation chair Charlie Haberstroh, (near left) Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava, and (right) 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

(Pearl at Longshore will be open 7 days a week starting tomorrow [Monday, February 22] for dinner only. Lunch — and a golfers’ menu — will be added later.)

In summer, the view of Long Island Sound will be spectacular. In winter, the Longshore Skating Rink shimmered in the background.

In summer, the view of Long Island Sound will be spectacular. Last night, the Longshore Skating Rink shimmered in the background.

Longshore Restaurant Reopens In February

Slow winters helped drive Splash — the long-running Longshore restaurant — out of business.

Pearl at Longshore — the new spot taking its place — hopes to do better. They’re even starting with a wintertime crowd.

Owners Marc Backon, Antonio Ninivaggi and their local investors announced this afternoon they’ll open in February.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant opens in February. Disregard this August view of Splash.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant opens in February. Disregard this August view of Splash.

They’ve spent months restoring the interior — and kitchen. Executive chef Michael Hazen will serve “sophisticated, seasonally inspired American cuisine” that focuses on “the simplicity and flavors of the ingredients.”

Pearl will offer traditional seafood dishes, grass-fed beef and seasonal produce, with organic, healthy and gluten-free selections. The bar includes craft and micro-brew beers. “Pearl in a Box” is the name of their takeout menu.

Designer Bilal Barakat has “captured the spirit and history of Longshore, and infused it with a rustic chic and cosmopolitan feel.”

Sounds like big changes are ahead for Longshore diners.

But the new owners were smart to leave one thing alone: the view.

Even in February, it’s spectacular.