We all know Boston’s dining scene is booming, and perhaps no cuisine type has seen such growth in recent years as the traditional, colorful fare of the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Middle East. It seems like every corner offers an Insta-worthy spot for nourishing and reasonably-priced bowls and wraps, and with this many options, it can be hard to determine which is the best of the best.
As the South End’s top-rated destination for fresh, healthful bites, anoush’ella has flown under the radar for some time, but that’s about to change thanks to its prominent role as one of the 15 best-in-the-city vendors at Time Out Market Boston.
To truly appreciate this family-owned operation, it helps to get to know Nina and Raffi Festekjian, the couple behind Boston’s premier fast-casual Eastern Mediterranean eatery. Nina—born in Beirut, Lebanon to an Armenian family—first met her husband-to-be Raffi when he was visiting his family in Beirut. Talk about an instant attraction: The two were engaged to be married within two weeks, and they’ve now been married for 25 years.
Nina—whose passions include interior design and fashion—got her culinary training from her mother, and has developed her recipes and techniques through cooking for her family. “I always had a fascination with the restaurant industry and always wanted to make luxurious, good food affordable and available to everyone,” explains Nina. “It allows me to meet people from all cultures and backgrounds.” Having hosted countless dinner gatherings for friends and family, not to mention fundraiser events where she acted as the event planner and cook, Nina “embarked on the crazy idea of starting a new restaurant where I would be able to replicate the quality, the quantity and the experience of dining at home with friends and family.”
Having settled on an approach to bring Eastern Mediterranean street food into a casually elegant atmosphere, the Festekjians opened anoush’ella in the South End in 2017. Since then, local residents and workers have been flocking to the welcoming eatery to devour tasty wraps filled with overnight-braised beef or Bell & Evans za’atar chicken. Savory mezze run the gamut from walnut harissa and baked chickpea fritters to grilled halloumi.
“Our name anoush’ella means ‘may it be sweet.’ It’s an expression of the love, pride and enjoyment that goes into serving someone who enjoys your food and thanks you,” explains Nina. “Our name reflects our belief that part of the joy of living lies within the food we eat and share with loved ones. We believe that when food is prepared with passion and love as the key ingredients, it awakens the palate, enriches the mind and satisfies the soul.”