I’ve walked by this empty shop so many times, seeing no people and (more importantly) no food, that it became a running joke. What were they doing in there? What went on behind that huge picture window?
I’ve walked by this empty shop so many times, seeing no people and (more importantly) no food, that it became a running joke. They put up signage so far in advance of any signs of life that it got to be mysterious. What were they doing in there? What went on behind that huge picture window? When they opened the space next door as well, I got excited; perhaps now something would happen? But no tables or chairs ever appeared — just an empty desk with another sign. Luckily for its Museum District neighborhood, Belmont Food Shop is alive, though operating under a very soft opening.
While walking by one snowy evening recently, I noticed a new sign with what appeared to be a menu on it. When my companion and I stopped to look at it, we were invited inside by a man in a bowler hat offering us free truffles. With two kinds to choose from, spicy or savory, the truffles were huge and mine had hints of Mexican chilies in it.
Before we became wary of taking candy from strangers, we soon learned that the man in the bowler was owner Steven Ristretti, and the shop did have food, but was only offering boxed lunches for now. The space next door was awaiting city approval to allow seating. Boxed lunches include a sandwich, a side, and a beverage for $12 with tax. A handful of options are available, like the crabcake on a Sally Lunn roll; roast beef and caramelized onions on Focaccia; and smoked mozzarella, roasted vegetable terrine, and arugula on black pepper potato bread.
Sparse as the space is, there are lots of charming, old touches. Most of the wood in the shop was reclaimed and reworked by Ristretti himself, taken from various other buildings in his travels. His walk-in, wood-covered refrigerator is from the early 1900’s. An antique apple press is by the front door, soon to be used to make cider, and the long, old, wooden bar just begs for stools to sit on for a chat with neighbors. Ristretti advocates a “back to basics” approach, with his recycled shop parts, hand-cut meats, and homemade bread, made using flour from Byrd Mill in Ashland.
I was happy to see customers inside the other day as I passed again, and those truffles available for $1 each. Ristretti says he tries to arrive around 7am weekdays to bake fresh bread, and if you see the light on in, he’s also open for coffee. He’s there until 6pm weekdays and hopes to offer boxed dinners soon.
Belmont Food Shop
27 N. Belmont Ave
Open Monday through Friday, 10:30am to 6pm
For more happenings in the Museum District area, stop by West of the Boulevard News.