The space at 325 North Main St.—formerly nessa—has been transformed into a Moroccan oasis. A French door has been added which leads out onto the patio.
Jananne Abel|Westmore News
The space at 325 North Main St.—formerly nessa—has been transformed into a Moroccan oasis. A French door has been added which leads out onto the patio. Jananne Abel|Westmore News

Ever since I noticed the banner revealing that a Moroccan restaurant was coming to town back in October, I was thrilled. The fact that little information was available about it added to the intrigue. Now that it’s about to open, I’m getting anxious to smell the aroma of regional spices wafting from the locale and to sample and learn more about Moroccan cuisine. Argana Restaurant & Bar will be opening at 325 North Main St. next week, with the grand opening scheduled for Tuesday, Mar. 21 and the eatery welcoming the public the next day.

Argana is the creation of Moroccan-born Nordine and Soumia “Mia” Achbania and will be their first restaurant.

Nordine has managed many restaurants, most recently Louie’s in Cos Cob and Polpo in Greenwich, the latter for about 10 years. His wife Mia, the head chef, designed the menu and developed the recipes. She will be cooking with a Moroccan chef, known as Chef Ali, who is coming up from New York City where he has worked at four different restaurants.

“I’m the one I just eat, I don’t cook,” said Nordine during a telephone interview on Monday, Mar. 13. “I have been only in management.”

Nordine, in the restaurant business for 18 years, lived in Port Chester for almost six years before moving to Greenwich.

“This is the first Moroccan restaurant we are opening, probably not the last,” he said.

They decided on Moroccan food because “this area of Port Chester and Westchester needs something different,” he said. “There are too many Italian, French and Mexican restaurants. I have to come up with something totally different.”

Since he and his wife are Moroccan, their Moroccan friends who went to Polpo said they should open a Moroccan restaurant.

They chose 325 North Main St., the former location of nessa, because, said Nordine, “there is not too many [Moroccan] locations around this area, I know a lot of people in this area from Westchester and Greenwich and I’m a local guy. So when we found nessa closed, we found it was a location easy to switch to Moroccan atmosphere. It is in a good location on the main street. There is a lot of traffic in this area, it is a great location to open a business.”

They started doing renovations in October 2016. “We totally changed the whole restaurant,” said Nordine. “It looks like now Moroccan atmosphere. We bought handmade chandeliers from Morocco. We created one Moroccan lounge in the back of the restaurant for private parties.”

His friend Doron Sabag, owner and builder/designer at Sound Beach Partners in Stamford, did the renovations. “We demolished the bar and moved the bar to the left side [of the restaurant] and [opened] the wall behind the bar with a big French door to the patio,” said Nordine.

The patio was lovely when nessa occupied the space, always filled with beautiful trees, plants and flowers, as I’m sure it will be now that Argana has taken it over.

“Nordine and his wife are good friends of mine, so I am helping them out,” said Sabag. “I’m helping them get it done.

Sabag raved about Mia’s cooking. “She is extremely talented and amazingly passionate about Moroccan food,” he said. “Please encourage people to go.”

“You’re going to love it,” said Nordine about the food. “It’s like real, real Moroccan cuisine.” The traditional cooking pot from Morocco called a tajine they imported through Canada.

I read that Moroccan food consists of spiced, slow-cooked meat dishes simmered in one magical pot: a tajine. The word refers to both the conical-shaped dish and the food that's inside it, which is usually a blend of sweet and savory flavors.

Argana will also serve couscous, the dish Morocco is most known for. In addition, “Morocco was occupied by France, so there is a lot of infusion of French cuisine,” said Nordine. The food has been influenced by Spain as well and “also Jewish cuisine has evolved.” So expect a wide range of flavors.

As for any more specifics, we’ll have to wait and see, but, with the opening set for next week, fortunately we won’t be waiting long.