A New Team Prepares To Reopen The Pearl And The Boarding House
Jason Graziadei •
When The Pearl and The Boarding House restaurants reopen their doors this spring, the two landmarks of the Nantucket dining scene will be reinvented, but will also be paying homage to the long legacies of the beloved downtown establishments.
Attempting to thread that needle will be a new management team that includes Abby Ayre, who was tapped to be general manager, and Christina Peterson, who was recently named wine director. The two women are friends and veterans of the island restaurant industry, Ayre having served as GM of The Gaslight and The Nautilus, while Peterson most recently served as the GM and sommelier at Via Mare on Broad Street.
On Tuesday, as they walked through the construction zone inside the two restaurants - where interior renovations have been ongoing for months - Ayre and Peterson said they were excited for the challenge and eager to welcome back patrons into the revamped dining establishments, which had been dormant for the 2022 season.
“For me, it really comes down to the team and the place,” Ayre said of the opportunity to become general manager. “I feel honored to be a part of this team and it feels a bit surreal to be taking on the incredible legacy of The Pearl and bringing it into its next chapter.”
Joining Ayre and Peterson in leading the two restaurants on Federal Street will be head chef John Tubolino, who is joining The Pearl and The Boarding House from San Diego, where he was the chef de cuisine at Fort Oak. The restaurants’ new bar manager will be Tierney Moses, who is coming over from Cisco Brewers and Triple 8 Distillery. Together they will be bringing back some of former chef Seth Raynor's classic dishes - such as the wok fried lobster, the tuna martini, and the 60-second steak and egg - while also ushering in a new menu, wine and drink selections.
“I think it’s important to find balance with the past legacy and the future,” Ayre said, acknowledging the passionate following former owners Seth and Angela Raynor established over three decades running the restaurants. “I am eager for the opportunity to welcome guests back into The Pearl and to showcase the beautiful renovation and our takes on old classics. It’s exciting to celebrate and honor history while also leaving room for new traditions.”
Peterson added “We have the utmost respect and appreciation for what the Raynors and their team put into the restaurant. We want to honor that while providing our own fresh take on classics. Wine lists will draw from similar principles as before, but with my spin on it.”
Assuming interior construction remains on schedule, the hope is for The Pearl to be open by Daffodil Weekend in late April, with The Boarding House opening slightly later for the Wine Festival weekend in mid-May.
While there have been persistent rumors that The Pearl and The Boarding House were being converted into private dining clubs, the new ownership group - Blue Flag Partners - has confirmed that both restaurants will be open to the public.
“To answer the question, no it isn't a private club - the restaurants will be open to the public,” said Ricki Millington, senior associate for Blue Flag Partners who oversees food and beverage for the firm. “The event spaces remain and will be available not only to the public but also for private group bookings and events. We're committed to following the legacy of Seth and Angela Raynor and we're pouring all our resources into doing it right."
On Wednesday, the team from The Pearl and The Boarding House will be before the Select Board for a public hearing to request new restaurant, liquor, and entertainment licenses. In advance of the meeting, town licensing administrator Amy Baxter wrote to the Select Board that the application “seeks the same licenses and conditions applied to the former operator."
Presuming the license requests are approved on Wednesday, The Pearl will begin accepting reservations about a month before its opening, while The Boarding House will be open for walk-ins only.
For Ayre and Peterson, they hope to recreate for patrons the same magic that they felt during their first dining experience at The Pearl - which just so happened to be together.
“I remember we snagged some seats at the bar and tried a bottle of sake new to us and sampled all of the classics on the menu recommended by the bartender,” Ayre said. “It was one of those nights that felt as though time stopped. Over the years, I've heard countless stories from close friends, mentors, and guests alike and the common theme is always the same: The Pearl is this iconic, almost elusive, all immersive dining experience that you really can't explain, you have to feel it and allow yourself to get lost in it all. I can't wait to help guests create these types of memories again. Opening day can't come soon enough!”
Among the longest-running restaurants on Nantucket, The Boarding House had been owned and operated by Angela and Seth Raynor since 1991. When Michael Molinar moved his flower business out of the building to Chestnut Street, the Raynors were able to expand and launched The Pearl in 1999.
In October 2021, the Raynors sold the property at 12 Federal Street and the businesses to Blue Flag Partners for $7.2 million. There were other suitors for the restaurants, Angela Raynor said at the time, but they had been in talks with Blue Flag for months, and have known members of its team for years. She expressed confidence that the company was the right choice to steward The Boarding House and The Pearl into the future.