il Casale Team Opening New Belmont Center Restaurant in Early Summer

Photo: The de Magistris’ new eatery “The Wellington” will be a similar size to the flagship il Casale restaurant.

Residents will have a new dining option as the Belmont family that runs il Casale will open its newest eatery in the early summer in the building that houses Foodies and the Belmont Book Store.

The “The Wellington” was presented before the Belmont Board of Selectmen last week as the de Magistris family sought a full-alcohol license for the second of the family’s businesses in Belmont Center, following their award-winning restaurant at 50 Leonard St. 

The license was approved unanimously by the board on Jan. 8. 

The family first approached the town in July 2017 when it presented its designs to the Planning Board which took some issue with the parking spaces allocated to the business. The application was approved in September

The new restaurant will be “a little more casual than what you may recall at il Casale, more modern American fare (“hamburgers and oysters,” according to Dante de Magistris), a fresh seasonal menu that will change … and meeting the ever-growing demand foreign and vegetarian options” in the $11 to $16 range for “burger and  and $21 to $31 for entrees. There will also be a brunch menu.  

The location – which will have entries on Leonard Street and adjacent the Claflin Street parking lot – will be open for lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner until 10 p.m. with a bar featuring craft beers and handmade cocktails. There will also be a brunch menu.  

The new eatery will mirror il Casale in size and occupancy, taking up 3,500 sq.-ft. in the first-floor dining area – with 2,000 sq.-ft. in the lower level taken up by office and storage space – will have 133 seats with 21 bar seating with an occupancy of 200, nearly identical to the de Magistris’ flagship operation.

de Magistristos OK’d To Open ‘Neighborhood’ Eatery In Macy’s Block

Photo: Damian de Magistris 

It doesn’t yet have a name, but a new eatery from the Belmont family that brought upscale il Casale will be up and running in Belmont Center next year.

That’s the outcome from the Planning Board that voted to waive the town’s bylaw on restaurant parking requirements allowing the de Magistris family to open a “neighborhood restaurant” in the renovated Macy’s Block.

“We’ll start work on the space in the fall and open by spring [2018],” said Damian de Magistris to the Belmontonian after the decision made at the Planning Board’s meeting held Monday, Sept. 19.

The town’s zoning bylaw requires one parking space for every two seats in a proposed restaurant. With the new site set to hold 133 seats, the de Magistris family was required to provide 67 spaces dedicated to the new business.

After the Planning Board advised the family to come back with additional data back in July, it came to Monday’s meeting with parking statistics and two videos. 

According to Len Simons, an attorney for landlord Locatelli Properties assisting the de Magistris family with its application, there is “a lot of parking spaces available” in the parking lots in the rear of the building and on-the-street at the peak times of 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and Saturday afternoons around 12:30 p.m.

Simons also said supplemental information indicates that about 70 percent of employees will be taking public transportation to the new outlet. 

de Magistris told the board the family sees the new dining spot “a bit as a service to our community.” But requiring multiple visits before the board “are stressful for us financial” since “we want to make this work.” said de Magistris.

In the end, the Planning Board gave relief to the zoning requirements with the condition that employees understand where they can and cannot park.

Initially dubbed Roast 75 (as in 75 Leonard St. the street address), the new site would be a “new warm, inviting neighborhood restaurant,”  incorporating an inexpensive, farm-to-table concept “that you can go to every day,” said Dante de Magistris when the family first revealed its plans before the Planning Board in July. 

“It’s a nice beautiful spot there,” said de Magistris.

Planning Board Parks il Casale’s Next Belmont Eatery

Photo: Dante de Magistris before the Planning Board.

Everything appeared to be going swimmingly for the local team seeking to open a new restaurant in the former Macy’s building in Belmont Center.

The site review application before the Planning Board which met on Monday, June 10 at the Beech Street Center couldn’t have come with a better pedigree. The de Magistris brothers (“We all grow up in Belmont,” said one brother at the introductions) who run the prestigious award-winning il Casale restaurant at 50 Leonard St. are seeking to open a second Belmont location, a new dining experience for residents to experience.

Likely dubbed Roast 75 (as in 75 Leonard St. the street address), the new site would be a “new warm, inviting neighborhood restaurant,” according to Dante de Magistris, the chef, and co-owner of il Casale, speaking for the family. The eatery would incorporate an inexpensive, farm-to-table concept “that you can go to every day,” he said.

The “front” door would be the back entrance facing the two parking lots along Claflin Street. ‘It’s a nice beautiful spot there,” said de Magistris.

Architect Neli Ialamov of South End-based McMahon Architects said little would be done to the brick exterior. The interior would consist of a lower basement storage area and a main floor dining area with an open “show” kitchen so diners can see the cooks in action. 

Architect Neli Ialamov of South End-based McMahon Architects.

But for the Planning Board, it wasn’t what the customers would be ordering that interested them; rather where those patrons would park their cars that held their interest.

Len Simons, an attorney for landlord Locatelli Properties assisting the de Magistris family with its application, told the board it would be seeking relief from the town’s zoning bylaw requirement of supplying one parking space for every two seats in the restaurant. With the new site set to hold 133 seats, the de Magistris family will need to provide 67 spaces.

That would be an issue as the landlord’s parking lot located adjacent to the operation only has 61 spaces total which needs to supply existing retail and restaurants.

In the family and Simons’ view, the restaurant could get by with 54 dedicated spaces in which several spots would be daytime permitted commuter parking in the nearby lot behind the Leonard Street fire station and the municipal location.

With a total of 382 parking spaces in lots and on the street in Belmont Center,”[t]he thought is that there should be enough parking to satisfy the requirements of the zoning bylaw albeit not on the same lot as the restaurant,” said Simons.

Simons also said 70 percent of the expected 25 employees would take mass transit to work and since a growing number of diners are arriving via ride-hailing companies such as Lyft and Uber, the actual number of spots the restaurant would need will be reduced even further.

But as Board Chair Elizabeth Allison noted, “the numbers [of space] are not the problem.” While not disputing the data presented to the board, Allison wanted to see “firmer” facts on the number of restaurant seats and parking spaces in lots and on the street in the Center in chart form rather than just off the top-of-the-head figures. She also said the board would be reviewing past actions on relaxing the parking bylaw for restaurants to be “consistent” if it would grant relief.

And while the board wishes to be “business friendly,” Allison said it also wanted to “be friendly to all business” in the center, not crowding out one set of retailers for another.

But it was when they realized that the board was not going to vote on the application Monday – scheduling a return visit of the application on Aug. 1 – that the faces of the de Magistris brothers took a distinctly anxious turn. And little wonder as it was revealed the board’s three-week delay on a possible vote was putting the il Casale team “between a rock and a hard place,” according to Simons.

Apparently, the de Magistris’ are “on the cusp of obtaining a liquor license” from the Board of Selectmen, said Simons, which, in turn, will allow them to finalize a financing package needed to begin construction on a space they are paying rent.

“At the risk of seeming aggressive,” Simons asked if approval of the site review application could be granted at present with conditions attached. But Allison nixed the suggestion, and Aug 1 would be the next time the team can plead its case to the board.

After spending 10 minutes discussing strategy with Simons in the Beech Street Center’s parking lot, Dante de Magistris summed up the board’s decision with a shrug of the shoulders.

“It’s an ongoing process. It’s a beautiful process,” he said without a bit of cynicism in his voice.


Two Months After the Fire, Il Casale Reopens Monday

Photo: The interior of il Casale which reopens for business on March 7. 

A smokey fire in an exhaust flue on Jan. 7 not only sent Belmont and Arlington fire departments to 50 Leonard St., it resulted in il Casale Belmont in Belmont Center being closed so owners Dante, Damian and Filippo de Magistristo could make the necessary repairs to the landmark restaurant.

Today, Monday, March 7 – two months to the day of the fire – the de Magistris’ are opening the doors to their eatery which did not undergo any major renovations aside from some minor aesthetic upgrades. 

“While the damage to the restaurant was minimal, it has been no small feat for us to re-open,” said Dante, who is il Casale’s chef.

“We are a small 100 percent family-run local business with 50 talented and dedicated employees who are eager to serve and awaiting the moment when guests fill our space with their convivial spirits,” he said.

The chefs have been busy setting up the line to cook il Casale’s tried and true favorite dishes and will be introducing some new menu items including roasted swordfish “chop” al livornese and roasted skate wing – oreganata with brown butter and celery spears

“We are so grateful for the support of our local community over the past seven years and appreciate all of their support in getting us back on track for many more,” said Dante.

‘Top Chef’ Makes Reservation in Belmont Center

Belmont Center is packed full of lights, cameras and … chefs as the popular Bravo reality cooking show, Top Chef, is filming an episode of its Season 12 at Belmont’s standout restaurant il Casale on Leonard Street today, Tuesday, May 20.

Current Productions, the production company for Bravo, has taken over Leonard Street from Rancatore’s Ice Cream to the Bank of America branch office, narrowing the roadway with trucks and other vehicles as Belmont Police officers directed traffic. The production crew also required Belmont Light to take down the “Belmont Town Day” banner to the displeasure of the Light crew who had spent yesterday repairing it.

Across the street a growing number of fans of the show sat on benches or stood by to see the busy work taking place.

“We love Top Chef!” said Dawn Perry of Gilbert Road who watched the “action” with some of the show’s local groupies.

Periodically, groups of young, hip-looking white-clad contestant cooks are led in and out of the restaurant as darkly-dressed servers along with il Casale’s chef Dante de Magistris – who owns the award-winning eatery with his brothers Damian and Filippo – were being instructed by a production crew member.

Around 11 a.m., the contestants boarded four SUVs and were taken to Belmont Town Hall where the production company rented out rooms for catering.

By 12:30 p.m., the talent showed up as show host Padma Lakshmi (who waved to fans), head judge Tom Colicchio – who had a great write up in this past Sunday New York Times on feeding the poor – and judge Gail Simmons were ushered into the restaurant.

Not that il Casale or Belmont is unfamiliar with the film-making process. Last year, Robert Downey Jr. and his production company filmed on Belmont Hill and a Dane Cook movie was shot in the Center. And il Casale recently hosted Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz, it is the favorite restaurant of former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney and one night the Boston Bruins caused a near riot among a slew of teenage girls when the team held their “break-up” dinner there.  

Top Chef is a competition show on since 2006, in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges. The contestants are judged by a panel of professional chefs and guest judges such as Anthony Bourdain and Wolfgang Puck with one or more contestants eliminated in each episode. 

It was announced last month that Boston was selected to be the host city for the new season which will broadcast in the fall.