Pearl at Longshore shines at renovated waterfront setting
WESTPORT — 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.
It was Halloween of 2014 when the idea for Pearl was born. Ninivaggi, whose family owns and operates Tarantino restaurant in Saugatuck, was helping serve customers when he overheard a conversation about the closing of Splash, the restaurant/bar that previously occupied the Longshore spot.
Marc Backon, a Westport resident and the other senior partner at Pearl, was dining with friends when the men began bandying about the dream of buying the restaurant and rejuvenating it.
Ninivaggi “overheard the conversation and said, ‘That would be so much fun,’ ” Backon remembered.
Two days later, the two met to plan a partnership for the Longshore venture, and later were joined by several investors who also were among those who were part of the initial discussion.
“This has been the culmination of so many months of hard work,” Backon said, expressing satisfaction with the extensive renovations of the waterfront space occupied by the restaurant. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
“The menu is all sustainable, as farm-to-table as we can,” Ninivaggi said, adding that chef Michael Hazen “is amazing.”
He made note of some menu offerings, including a range of oysters from different regions, including Copps Island, Mystic and Westport, along with fresh fish dishes and gluten-free pasta.
“People are just dining in a different way,” he said. “People are paying much more attention to what they eat — we are what we eat, after all.”
The Pearl at Longshore website describes the restaurant as “focused on seasonally inspired, sophisticated American cuisine.”
Some of the menu offerings include: lobster, crab and shrimp selections from the cold bar; a range of salads; “small plates” that range from truffled almonds and pork and beef meatballs to wasabi caviar and prime beef tartare; pastas and “signature” pizzas, and entrees that include lobster rolls, half-pound beef burgers, a variety of steaks, lemon chicken, Scottish salmon, butternut squash risotto, diver scallops ‘a la plancha,’ pork chops and tuna steaks.
Asked what will make Pearl at Longshore stand out, Backon pointed toward the sweeping view across Long Island Sound and said, “That!”
“That picture is everything,” he said, “and every time we walk in here in the morning, we just stare out the window ... There’s nothing that looks out on the Sound like this and it’s truly a gem,” he added. “That’s how it got its name.”
Dining on the waterside patio is expected to start in May, while Pearl at Longshore’s interior features include a bar and lounge.