After a great deal of anticipation, the newest restaurant to grace The Inn at Longshore, Pearl, opened its doors last Monday. The restaurant’s cosmopolitan appearance isn’t what one might expect in a seaside community. There are coastal elements of course, repurposed bleached wood lines the wall behind the bar which also houses a recycled glass countertop that’s very much reminiscent of sea glass. But Pearl will never be mistaken for a casual seasonal, seaside eatery; it’s much too stylish for such. The atmosphere perfectly reflects the personality of the town, sophisticated without being overly formal. Beyond the clean lines of the interior lies the magnificent view of the Long Island Sound. If you’re lucky enough to be there at sunset be prepared to have your breath taken away.
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It took more than a year, but what began as a grain of an idea has evolved into a Pearl.
Pearl at Longshore, the new restaurant and bar at the Inn at Longshore, celebrated its opening Monday night.
“It has been a journey,” said Antonio Ninivaggi, one of the senior owners. “It has been 14 months on this project and it feels wonderful to have brought Pearl back to life.”
“All of Westport has been waiting for it,” added Ninivaggi, who also owns Toto, a Mediterranean restaurant in Fairfield.
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Views of the Pearl Restaurant and Bar, which opened Monday at 5 p.m. in space occupied for 19 years by the Splash Restaurant at the Inn at Longshore at Longshore Club Park in Westport. Steve O’Shea, a marketing representative for the new eatery, describes the restaurant as “sophisticated casual fine dining in a seasonal atmosphere serving delicious, healthy American cuisine.” Greenwich-based designer Bilal Barakat said the restaurant seats 65 in the main dining room and enclosed, temperature-controlled porch, 18 at the bar and additional seating on the patio beginning in the spring.
Michael Hazen has been named Executive Chef at the highly anticipated new restaurant, Pearl at Longshore in Westport, Connecticut. Hazen, an innovative chef with over 20 years experience, most recently launched the concept for the successful Bar Taco restaurants and prior to that spent years building the Barcelona restaurant brand. Chef Hazen has designed a menu influenced by fresh, seasonal and sustainable cuisine, honoring the stunning Westport waterfront and the community’s focus on a healthy lifestyle.
“The menu at Pearl is centered around the food people love to eat, but also has that element of surprise, something a guest didn’t know they wanted but are glad they had it,” said Hazen. “I wanted to create a restaurant that was simple and delicious, yet adds excitement to Westport’s restaurant scene.” Pearl’s menu will be extensive and reflect its surroundings and the spirit of the lively Longshore Park. Guests can look forward to the finest selection of oysters in the area, a variety of small plates to share like Maryland Crab Toast, Crunchy Meatballs, Deviled Eggs and Lox, with Wasabi Caviar and Crème Fraiche, and Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Miso Almond Herb Sauce. Entrees include unique seafood dishes like the Compo Beach Seafood Pot with shrimp, mussels, clams, roasted tomato fennel in a lobster broth, three types of steak, direct from Pat LaFrieda with multiple sauce options and Skinny Fries with white truffle aioli, fresh pastas, thin-crust pizzas, gluten free options and more. A signature dessert, the Melting Chocolate Pearl, is finished tableside with a warm Kahlua sauce that Hazen describes as “decadent and not to be missed!”
“We want Pearl to be where the community comes together to create memories; a unique restaurant for families and foodies alike. Taking inspiration from the welcoming feeling of entertaining at home, we want our guests to be comfortable and the experience easy. This customer-focused approach is what Hazen is known for, incorporating his artisanal philosophy with fresh, food-forward and artistic plates that respect culinary traditions. With a newly designed expansive bar, completely renovated lobby and dining room, refurbished outdoor dining deck and the premier waterside patio for outdoor cocktails in the area, Pearl will stand alone among the restaurants in Westport. The bar program will reflect the menu and feature craft beers, an extensive wine list, and handcrafted cocktails.
Growing up in a Massachusetts farm town, Hazen’s first job was at a local restaurant where he held nearly every job from dishwasher to line cook. From there, he became Executive Chef at Goose Cove Lodge in Maine, a vegetarian restaurant where he received an “excellent” rating from The New York Times. Hazen’s career trajectory took him to major restaurant towns like Chicago and New York and he’s worked alongside leading restaurateurs including Stephen Starr before becoming an integral part of the growing the Barteca Restaurant Group.
His passion for food and restaurants lies in the details, carefully researching all the elements that make a restaurant successful and keep guests coming back. “My measure for success is when I see people are having happy celebrations and enjoying the moment from the beginning to the end. I know it’s clicked when a guest shakes my hand and tells me it’s the best meal they’ve ever had,” said Hazen. He’s excited to welcome friends and new guests from Fairfield County and beyond.
Pearl at Longshore will be open every day year-round for lunch and dinner and late evening for cocktails and a light fare. Lunch will begin later in March. A classic weekend brunch will also be served on Saturday and Sunday.