Anyone who knows Nantucket knows Galley Beach. The restaurant is a mecca for style and cuisine. We were lucky enough to interview the dynamic duo behind not only Galley but several other posh eateries. Meet David and Eliza Silva, possibly one of the coolest couples on the island, who bring both unique design and elevated dining to the island.
1. Nantucket has such a special place in so many peoples’ hearts. Why is the island magical to both of you?
E: It’s home, one that I know we take for granted at times. But when you stop to look around and realize what a truly special place it is, that when it hits you, Nantucket is amazing.
D: I 100% agree with Eliza; our boys love it too. Living here year-round, you really feel both the seasons of weather and the humanity coming and going. Both our sons were born here and are 12th generation Nantucketers going back to the first English settlers. They are related to many of the first families, including Peter Folger, who was Benjamin Franklin’s maternal Grand Father. They loved when I told them that!
2. You worked together to create Lola 41, Maven, Afterhouse, and to make Galley Beach a culinary and aesthetic destination on Nantucket. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process and working together?
E: We’re good at brainstorming together, ideally with a glass of wine in hand, over a beautiful dinner, in an amazing restaurant somewhere in the world. Travel is a huge inspiration for both of us, and I think we pick up so many cues and ideas along the way and then relive them during the creative process.
D: Again, Eliza is spot on with her answer. She is a talented interior designer (Eliza Alles Interiors) and did an outstanding job at all the restaurants, Pagio on Main Street, and her off-island projects from the past. I am particularly excited about the house we are building for ourselves. Eliza designed it from the ground up and inside and out. Stay tuned for photos on her Instagram page @houseofsandandsalt. The fun part comes at the beginning during the travel and inspirational brainstorming part, and at the end, when it is all is coming together, we get to crack a great bottle to celebrate.
3. David, your Grandmother, opened Galley Beach over 60 years ago as a clam shack. Your mother started the process of turning it into an upscale restaurant. What would your Grandmother think today about Galley and about the island itself? Will you encourage your children to continue in the family tradition?
D: So that side of the family goes back five generations, and I am the 3rd generation to own and operate the restaurant with my brother Geoffrey who is now more of a silent partner. The restaurant actually goes back to the 1930s, but my Grandmother, Emma Lea Currie, and her friend Mary Huffman took charge when my mom’s parents bought the entire property with the Huffman’s, including Cliffside Beach Club in 1958. The restaurant at the time was a failing enterprise, and my Grandfather asked them to see what they could do with it. They had some success as a soda fountain and clam shack/ burger and hot dog stand. It was only open in the day and was more for cliffside guests. But, the general public could access takeout at the pick-up window on the public way. Then in the ’70s, my mother took over, opened it to the public, and made lunch a bit more upscale, inspired by her travels to the south of France with her long-time partner Ivan Skender. When I was a kid, it still had the public way window. In the late 90’s we took over and did a major renovation in 2008, which is the restaurant as it is today. It is one of the longest-running restaurants on the island and is the longest-running restaurant by the same family. My Grandmother was still alive at the time of the renovation and loved it!
As far as encouraging my children, I like the Thomas Jefferson quote: “My father was a farmer, so I could become a lawyer, so my son could be a poet.” It’s a tough business, can be very rewarding, but you really have to love it and love the opportunity to make people happy. If it becomes their calling, it will be there for them.
4. Eliza, has the pandemic influenced your designs, and if so, how?
E: The pandemic had a huge impact on my design life, but from a literal perspective more than a philosophical one. A project, our family home, that I had been working on for two years was halted and eventually canceled when lockdowns happened.
During the intense first few months of quarantine, I redesigned a house for us, one that we are all very happy about and believe we will enjoy more than the original plan. We are well along in the project and looking forward to moving into our new home. Trust the process.
5. Galley Beach is the place to be seen on the island. It’s also for the true epicurean and for those who want a romantic beachside dinner with a sunset over the water. Tell us a bit about The Afterhouse and what to expect there.
D: We started the Afterhouse as a partnership with Executive Chef W. Scott Osif of Galley Beach. It is a seafood and wine bar that is a kind of love letter to the industry.
We serve the food menu late, with smaller plates, and many chefs and other industry people come in after work. That said, it has grown quite a reputation with the general public, perhaps starting with the Boston Magazine honor of Best Bar on Nantucket in 2019. We are very proud of that spot, and it allows us to do some creative things with both food and wine that would be harder to pull off at Galley Beach. With its growing popularity, we may be tweaking the reservation policy a bit so stay tuned to our Instagram page @afterhouse_nantucket for updates.