Home Essex CountyBelleville Belmont Tavern: An Old-School Italian Restaurant in Belleville

Belmont Tavern: An Old-School Italian Restaurant in Belleville

by Diana Cooper
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Belmont Tavern is unlike any other Italian restaurant in town, or even in the state of New Jersey – and that’s saying something. Just ask Clint Eastwood, who’s visited the famous place and raved about the popular dish, the Pork Francaise. What makes Belmont unique is that it remains the same since it opened in 1967, especially the menu which includes the talk-of-the-town Chicken Savoy and Shrimp Beeps. Located at 12 Bloomfield Avenue in Belleville, Belmont is open for dinner and is first-come, first-serve. Read on for The Montclair Girl’s profile on Belmont Tavern.

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

The Ivy at Chatham

History of Belmont Tavern

The original owner of Belmont Tavern in 1967 was Charles “Stretch” Verdicchio. The infamous Chicken Savoy was named after him. He initially got the recipe from his mother and he had passed it along to his daughter, Annette Wroblewski, who is the owner today.

She and her husband and their daughter, Kim Sorrentino, are the faces behind the restaurant and also help make the one-of-a-kind sauces. Chef Leo Lukar, who is not related to the Wroblewskis, works the kitchen and has been part of the restaurant for over 20 years. Separately, the bar and the building are owned by someone else — James Cuomo owns the bar — which is the agreement that was made when it first opened and remained the same over the years.

^ Pictured: Owner Annette Wroblewski with her father, Charles “Stretch” Verdicchio

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

The owners are serious when it comes to ensuring their restaurant’s traditions stay intact. For one, the restaurant is cash only and they only accept cash or checks. The reason is that there were no credit cards back in the day. Another tradition they carry on is that the restaurant still looks like an old-time tavern and even the dust, the owners joked, is 50 years old. Customers will notice a music jukebox upon entering and an old cash register behind the bar.

“We didn’t talk about expanding. We haven’t even thought about it. If you look at the place, it’s geared to an old-time tavern and that’s how we want it to stay,” Annette Wroblewski told The Montclair Girl.

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

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About the Menu

Due to the small size of the restaurant, the menu is very simple and does not include desserts or coffee, except for espresso. The menu includes four appetizers, two chef specials, cavatelli with pot cheese and eggplant, and six pasta, seafood, and meat dishes. Everything is a la carte, meaning the meat doesn’t come on top of pasta, and everything is freshly made. An escarole salad, however, is served with all the meals.

As mentioned, most people come in for Stretch’s Famous “Chicken Savoy,” which is a whole chicken cut into pieces and topped with secret ingredients. “You can find Chicken Savoy at a number of restaurants and none of them tastes like ours at the Belmont,” Annette shared. “If you look at every table, you’ll see either the Chicken Savoy or Pork Francaise.”

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

There’s also the Chicken Murphy, which is half a chicken cut up into six pieces and it comes with potatoes, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. In addition, other dishes are named after special people in the owners’ lives, including Belmont’s Famous Shrimp “Beeps” (fried shrimp tossed in spicy homemade fra diavolo sauce), Scrod “Di Giacomo” Oreganato, and “Marco” Scungili and Spaghetti Guliano (made with hot shrimp, scungilli, and clams).

Famous Faces

Being that Belmont Tavern has been around for over 50 years, it comes as no surprise that many famous people have walked through its doors. There are pictures displayed on the wall of celebrities, famous figures, athletes, journalists, and more. There are also small statues behind the bar of people like Dean Martin, comedian Groucho Marx, and Jackie Gleason.

The list goes on but some famous people who visited include: The Four Seasons, The Midtown Men, Jersey Boys, singer Connie Francis, Judge Jeanine Pirro of FOX News, and Giants players like Tiki Barber, Knicks’ Ernie Grunfeld, and Frank Vincent.

^ Pictured: Owner Annette Wroblewski with former NJ Devils player Ken Daneyko

Annette told The Montclair Girl: “When Clint Eastwood was here, one of his producers said that he would eat at some of the finest restaurants in NY and never had a francaise as good as ours. We don’t put cornstarch in it and we use good ingredients.”

The owners said that sometimes the celebrities call in advance to give them a heads up, but after they visit once, they normally just come right in a second time without calling, given the restaurant’s friendliness and hospitality.

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

See More: The Best Italian Restaurants in Hoboken: A Definitive List

Worth The Wait

Belmont is only open for dinner and they do not accept reservations. When asked when a good time to go is, the owners said that every day is busy, but Monday, Friday, and Saturday tend to be busier days.

“We have people coming from Australia and England here, but generally, our business is localized to the extent of we go as far as Ocean County and as far as Bergen and Hudson County,” Annette told The Montclair Girl.

(Photo credit: Belmont Tavern’s Facebook)

When The Montclair Girl visited at 5PM on a Friday once it opened, the restaurant was already packed and the phone kept ringing off the hook with people asking for a good time to come. Although some people have to wait for a table, the bar — which is fully stacked — is accommodating and the food is served quickly because the owners strive to “get people in and out” due to the capacity.

Belmont offers catering, takeout orders, and private parties. In the past, MG is told they hosted a birthday party that had a headliner come from Vegas because he wanted to experience the restaurant firsthand. So, as a customer, you may never know who will walk through the doors, but it can be someone unexpected at any given time.

The hours of operation are Monday 5PM to 10PM, Wednesday through Saturday 5PM to 10PM, and Sunday 5PM to 9PM. The tavern is closed on Tuesdays and major holidays. For more information visit Belmont Tavern’s website, here.

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