Haute Secrets Boston: Nancy Batista-Caswell, Proprietor of Oak + Rowan, BRINE and Ceia Kitchen + Bar

At just 34 years old, Restaurateur Nancy Batista-Caswell, proprietor of Ceia Kitchen + Bar and BRINE in Newburyport, MA is setting out on her third venture, Oak + Rowan in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, which opens next week.
Caswell Restaurant Group_Proprietor Nancy Batista-CaswellPhoto Credit: Katie Nobel

She has already been awarded “Rising Star Restaurateur” by StarChefs for Coastal New England,  FSR MagazineRising Stars 40 Under 40” 2016, and is a recipient of the 2016 SmartCEO Boston Future 50 Award. One of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings this fall, Oak + Rowan will feature luxe dishes like a flight of four caviar, dueling yellowtail crudo and beef tartare for starters. Main entrees include lobster and veal sweetbreads, bone-in ribeye and squid ink farfalle with pheasant confit.

We caught up recently with Batista-Caswell to find out what she loves most about Boston.

Where were you born: New Bedford, MA

How long in Boston: I’ve had a residence in Boston for 2 years in the South End, but have been visiting the city since I was a young child.

Neighborhood: South End

Occupation: Restaurateur

Favorite Restaurant: Yikes, that’s hard because I try to take all things into consideration – like romance, atmosphere, consistency, wine… but as of late I tend to find myself craving time at COPPA. I appreciate the staff there and the fact that it’s consistently all I want it to be.

Best Sushi: o ya or Uni.

Best Italian: Erbaluce is a really classic Boston staple – but again best… I like the pasta at SRV and Giulia and I like the crudo bar Mezzana is serving- I eat out a lot…

Best dessert: Can I be biased and pick Brian Mercury’s pastries? There is a reason I wanted him on my opening team at Oak + Rowan. Incredibly talented. Otherwise count me in for some nut boxes at Tatte.

Best place for a romantic date: Honestly I think a steak/potato pizza at Mistral at the corner bar makes me feel great.

Best Sunday brunch: Puritan’s brunch is really delicious. Pastries are great.

Best place for a power business meeting: Lately I have been eating lunch on the go, running between all my restaurants, but one place to get business done – I think Trade does a good job at quick business lunches. I enjoy lunch at Select, too.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend? I love the Lenox- it has a great bar, and that green tea scent upon arrival. Classic Boston.

Favorite shopping venue/boutique: I like Crush, Wish on Beacon Hill, and Flock in South End.

Favorite place to buy jewelry/watches: Well I have a jeweler outside of the city – Kaya in Newburyport – who designed my diamond and wedding band, and I receive several comments a week on it. So take the train or drive- you will fall in love with his designs. And he’s reasonable!

Best Spa: In Newburyport I visit Interlocks Spa. I am embarrassed to say that I neglect my skin – I never make time for a facial until I make it in for a hydro facial and I feel like a million bucks. I also have received some great massages at Exhale on Arlington.

Favorite Charity Event: So biased, I organized a Great Chefs event for Anna Jaques Hospital. I always try to beat my $100,000 goal. I am happy to say we have done so for the past 2 years. I also organize my Cancer Shucks on behalf of my sister in law Carly, who last her battle to cancer at a young age.

Favorite Cultural Event: So, I am struggling here – I want to always support anything Portuguese since it’s my heritage. Maybe it’s not a cultural event, but I run in BAA races and really feel like it’s a pretty amazing event. It brings people in to race from all over the world, and some are Olympic runners – I find this to be so empowering and inspiring as well as eye opening. I get chills running past these athletic legends.

Best Steakhouse: Grill 23 is great, but if I’m picking based on sides, I have to pick the sides at Boston Chops.

Best Pizza: I like Pastoral’s fennel sausage pizza

Best Lunch: I wouldn’t be disappointed with a Row 34 bowl of chowder and a fish sandwich.

Best Gym/Athletic Facility: Studio 5 in Rowley – take the drive – classes are intense, and with my crazy schedule, the one hour I have I need to make sure I burn and sweat as much as possible. I also love a great spin session at FlyWheel.

Best Massage: Exhale Arlington.

Best Limousine/Driving Service: UBER – black car.

Best Museum/Exhibit: Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum

Describe Boston in three words: Classic, inspiring, real.

Favorite historic/legendary place to see or explore: Fenway! Something pretty awesome about experiencing the park – and I love ballpark food. Feel like a kid again.

All-around favorite spot in Boston: Boston Common swan pond. Quintessential spot. Take a breath during a crazy time here, and you will feel better instantly.

Best Aspect of Boston: Its architecture and people. We have such pride in our city and we own it like our own. I find the community to be uplifting and stimulating. Now, the innovation and growth – to be something new in a city so old. To be able to leave my own mark. A city where you can build your dreams.