Somerville’s Union Square will welcome a new source for Peruvian cuisine in the new year, and the restaurant responsible will bring a little extra flare along with the food. Celeste will be a creative space and restaurant, with a focus on ceviche and artistic collaboration. JuanMa Calderon, Maria Rondeau, and Paola Ibarra are working on securing permits and finalizing plans, aiming to open the doors to their new restaurant at 21 Bow St. (formerly an acupuncture clinic, located right by the Juice Union and steps from Neighborhood) as early as February 2018.
Calderon, a chef and filmmaker, and Rondeau, an architect and producer, have previously collaborated on a restaurant concept called Kriollo Real, which they ran as a Peruvian pop-up within their Cambridge home, beginning in 2013. They were also responsible for an artist residency project in La Antigua, Guatemala, and have worked together to produce a film, Amores Gatos.
“Our ideas have always been tied to working collaboratively with friends and colleagues, allowing a sense of experimentation in how things happen, and challenging the status quo,” Rondeau tells Eater in an email.
Celeste will likewise reflect that mindset: As a restaurant, it will focus on recipes from Peru, where Calderon grew up learning cooking methods from his mother and grandmother. As a creative space, it will serve as a forum of sorts, where the community can come together over arts and food.
“Celeste is envisioned as an open and democratic space, where everyone participates sensorially in how the food is made — through views, color, scents, textures, sounds, and projections, it all works as part of the shared experience,” Rondeau says.
The food will center on “home-cooked meals, made with love,” according to Rondeau, with an emphasis on ceviche, made for diners’ viewing pleasure: Bar seating will overlook the restaurant’s open kitchen.
In addition to a catch-of-the-day ceviche and a vegan version made with artichoke hearts, expect to see three kinds of slow-cooked stews: aji de gallina, which is a creamy chicken stew; seco de cordero, made with lamb; and locro, a vegetarian stew made with squash. There will also be potato terrines and salads, along with daily specials like octopus with olive tapenade, mussels, and rice with lentils.
Paola Ibarra will manage the bar program, which will include beer, wine, and cocktails, along with liquors like mezcal and pisco. There will be a late-night bar menu as well.
“Pairing food with a good beer or a well-balanced drink is an art, and we believe is equally important to the culinary experience,” Rondeau says.
The Bow Street storefront is currently under construction, but it will eventually offer a “simple yet stimulating” interior. The restaurant will span about 450 square feet, and there will be seating for 24, including space along the windows and at the kitchen bar.
“The concept for the space is to create a vibrant and intimate environment, and although it is very small, the plan is open, inviting, and the space is full of light,” Rondeau says.
Celeste takes its name from the Spanish word for the color light blue, which Rondeau says “evokes a sense of space, and a mood.”
The restaurant is meant to be an experience, not just a place to eat.
“Celeste is tied to ideas of gathering, of community, of sharing a home-cooked meal, of belonging, of open-ended, of feeling at home,” Rondeau says.
When Celeste opens, it will provide guests the opportunity to share music playlists with other diners.
“The idea is not to blast the sound and create a dance floor, but rather, offer the space for figures from all parts of our community to share a different and intimate part of who they are — their sensibilities to music, mood and environment,” Rondeau says.
The space will also welcome community events, including live podcasts, invited artists, and more.
“Eventually, we also would like to use Celeste as a platform to collaborate with chefs in the area and from afar, inviting them to experiment with our flavors, and to share different tastes, techniques, and approaches with us,” Rondeau says.
The members of the Celeste team have been in the Cambridge and Somerville areas for 10 years, and Rondeau says they feel right at home in Union Square, calling it “an area that has struck a perfect balance between maintaining a vibrant community of local shops, and new and exciting restaurants that contribute greatly to the culinary scene in the Boston area. We are very excited to be part of this.”
Once Celeste opens, the restaurant will operate Sunday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 12 a.m., with the late-night menu available. Keep an eye on the restaurant’s website for updates.