Cafeteria closed during the height of the pandemic in October of 2020, ending a successful 13-year run in a space at the corner of Gloucester and Newbury streets that had previously been home to a succession of ill-fated restaurants, and now its owner is looking to repeat his luck at the same location when his newest restaurant, Eva, opens there in early- to mid-April.
“Before Cafeteria was here, it was always changing hands, with different restaurants and different concepts,” said George Aboujaoude, owner of the erstwhile Back Bay restaurant, as well as Committee in the Seaport, among other dining establishments.
In fact, turnover at 279A Newbury St. was previously so frequent that many had likened the success of Cafeteria in a space where so many other restaurants had failed to the Red Sox “reversing the curse” in 2004 when the team ended its 86-year slump with a World Series victory.
“Once Cafeteria really established itself, the press and the media knew it here to stay and going to become part of the Back Bay and part of Newbury Street,” said Aboujaoude.
When Cafeteria eventually closed during the pandemic, this provided Aboujaoude enough down time to not only rethink the restaurant and come with the new concept for Eva, which he describes as having more a Mediterranean flair than its predecessor, but also to completely gut and overhaul the space itself.
Eva’s menu will highlight “modern American cuisine,” according to Aboujaoude, as opposed to Cafeteria’s “upscale American comfort food.” Along with traditional appetizers, and salads, Eva’s signature dishes will include the grilled octopus; braised short-rib gnocchi; tuna tartare, prepared with soy-and-citrus-dressed tuna, avocado and spicy mayo served with wonton crisps.
“Everything is first locally sourced,” said Aboujaoude.
Eva will also be introducing a new spin on Cafeteria’s renowned burger, with locally sourced, grass-fed ground beef served on a brioche bun.
As for libations, Eva will also feature an “extensive craft beer program” with nine breweries represented from Boston, Massachusetts, and throughout New England.
The front of the house will be in the hands of Nick Antonucci, Eva’s General Manager, who worked for 10 years at Back Bay Social, before becoming the assistant general manager at Committee and then going on to open Trillium Brewing Company as its bar manager.
Davis Norton, who previously worked with Antonucci at Trillium, will be Eva’s Assistant General Manager.
The restaurant’s design, credited to Newton’s Tiffany Barqawi Design, is accentuated in a palette of blues, greens, and natural wood tones.
“We wanted more exposed wood and a rustic look,” said Aboujaoude.
In all, 90 can be accommodated on Eva’s two floors, with seating for 45 customers on each level.
Downstairs, which is adorned with hand-woven raffia chandeliers and a unique leaf-like wall covering, is home to a 12-seat bar, while the remaining 33 seats are split among two- and four-seat tables.
The bar upstairs has 13 seats, with the other 32 seats dispersed between two- and four seat tables.
While the layout of both floors remains the same as before, the overall capacity inside has been increased by a total of about eight seats, since a “few seats were added to each floor,” said Aboujaoude.
For outdoor dining, Eva’s 91-seat patio is believed to be the biggest in the Back Bay.
Eva, meanwhile, takes its name from the Aboujaoude’s children and also means “full of life,” which is how Aboujaoude often described the atmosphere when Cafeteria occupied the space.
“When we had all three levels going, it was just alive,” said Aboujaoude, a South End native whose father, Elias, was the owner of the Cedars of Lebanon Restaurant in that neighborhood for more than 20 years.
“We’re hoping to make this for Newbury Street what my Dad’s restaurant was for Shawmut Ave, and to make it the neighborhood restaurant that Cafeteria ended up becoming,” he added.
Above all else, Aboujaoude, hopes Eva will become what he describes as “a neighborhood-first restaurant,” and one that’s in it for the long haul.
“My hope is to have another 10 to 15 years of success, and to really capture some of my old customers who used to be my neighbors when I was living on Comm. Ave,” said
For more about Eva, visit evaboston.com (which is still under construction), or follow the restaurant at EVA__Boston on Instagram.