Azita Bina-Seibel Reflects on Her Career Ahead of Imminent Closing of Bin 26 Enoteca

Saturday, June 1, will mark the end of an era when Bin 26 Enoteca closes after nearly two decades in business due to the retirement of co-owner and chef, Azita Bina-Seibel, who credits much of her success to the loyal support she has received from the Beacon Hill community.

“It’s a good neighborhood for relationships,” she said. “For me, it’s a neighborhood where there’s true community and one of the few places where everyone welcomes new neighbors in by gatherings and getting to know everyone.”

Azita Bina-Seibel.

When Bina-Seibel first arrived in Boston, many of the city’s residents didn’t know what dishes like focaccia, prosciutto, or risotto even were. But all that changed in 1983 when she opened the area’s first Northern Italian restaurant, Ristorante Toscano, on Charles Street.

On Beacon Hill, some neighborhood residents were already familiar with these food items from traveling to Italy, as Bina-Seibel recalled, so they welcomed the restaurant’s Tuscan culinary style.

(A second location of Ristorante Toscano opened in 1987 in Providence, R.I., followed by AZITA Ristorante, the first trattoria in Boston’s South End, in 1990.)

In 1995, Bina-Seibel opened Lala Rokh – the area’s first Persian restaurant – at 97 Mt. Vernon St. As was the case with the original Ristorante Toscano, Beacon Hill similarly embraced the new cuisine as many residents were already acquainted with Persian culture through Persian friends, or they had already traveled to Iran and experienced some of the dishes there themselves.

“Not to mention we love the neighborhood, and the neighborhood loves us,” said Babak Bina, who, together with his sister, Bina-Seibel, founded and own BINA Family Hospitality, of their decision to open another restaurant on Beacon Hill.

(Lala Rokh ultimately closed in August of 2018.)

In 2006, Bina-Seibel opened Bin 26 Enoteca, an Italian restaurant with a seasonal  menu and extensive wine list, at 26 Charles St., which proved to be another hit with Beacon Hill diners.

Reflecting on her career, Bina-Seibel thanks the Beacon Hill neighborhood for its years of unwavering support, as well as for “being our good friends and our good neighbors.”

Bina added, “Our commitment to the neighborhood and this reciprocal relationship we’ve enjoyed with them for over three decades really puts the onus on us to make sure that whoever takes over the space is understanding of what Beacon Hill is as a village.”

Bina also credits the hard-working staff at Bin 26 and their other restaurants for BINA Family Hospitality’s continued success over the years.

“We couldn’t have done it without our incredible staff in the kitchen, as well as in the dining room who have been an extension of our family for years,” he said.

Looking back at some of the lessons he has learned in the restaurant industry, Bina said, “The most important thing is to stay limber, and it’s important to be malleable to the outside world. Nobody planned for the pandemic, but it happened. The most important thing is to stay true to your principles and the ethos of the restaurant you operate. The most successful restaurants put their heart and soul into it, and that’s extremely exhausting while still being exhilarating.”

For her part, Bina-Seibel likens owning and operating a restaurant to hosting a party at your house, seven days a week, where you’re expected to plan for the event and also provide all the entertainment, food, and drink for the guests.

“There comes a point where you say, ‘entertain me now,’” she said, adding that after spending more than 40 years at the helm of some of Beacon Hill’s most popular and successful restaurants, she’s now looking forward to traveling and “enjoying my family without being tied down to one place.”

Besides, Bina-Seibel thinks the time is now right for her to step aside and make way for the next generation of Boston chefs. “I’d also like to give the baton to the young, imaginative chefs coming up,” she said.

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