If the Strumolos sought out an advertising tagline for their latest eatery, the cozy Ellie's Kitchen a few doors down from School No. 10 named for family matriarch, Eleanor, the one offered by family friend Craig Jackowski as he stared around during Sunday's grand opening summed up their store perfectly.
“This is a perfect example of Belleville: Family and friends, multiple generations of family and friends here to support them,” Jackowski said.
Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday, a crowd including 28th District Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo, Mayor Ray Kimble and Municipal Council members Vinnie Cozzarelli, Kevin G. Kennedy and cousin Marie Strumolo Burke – “My favorite Councilwoman,” cousin and part-owner Vinnie Strumolo said – gathered in front of Ellie's Kitchen for the ribbon cutting. Before Strumolo Burke performed the ceremonial honors, Vinnie Strumolo, Jr., promised this much about his family's new restaurant.
“When you come in here, everybody is family,” said Strumolo, a detective with the Belleville Police Department and a Board of Education trustee. “The main thing is when you com in, we want you to feel like you're at home.”
After owning and operating Rosebud's Sweet Shop on Joralemon Avenue from 1999-2005 – the eatery is still operating there under different ownership – the Strumolos opened up shop when the operators of Mo Chicken & Deli on the site wanted out, according to Eleanor Strumolo. Together with her husband, Vinnie Sr., her son Vinnie, Jr., and daughters, Renee Strumolo and Denise Corbo, Ellie's Kitchen was born.
“I always loved doing the business,” Eleanor Strumolo said in her eatery's kitchen. “This came up, so we all got together and decided to do this.”
At least a couple of Strumolo family members – including Denise Corbo's husband, Gerard; their twins, Gerard and Nico; and Renee Strumolo's children, Dana and Dominik – will handle cookie and serving duties. On Sunday, all hands were on deck as family and friends dined on complimentary egg sandwiches and sipped free cups of coffee.
Starting today, the menu will expand and the food will no longer be complimentary, but the Strumolos will still offer the same courteous, friendly service. There will be fresh soups, daily specials ranging from eggplant and meatballs to kielbasa and sauerkraut and pulled pork, not to mention Vinnie Strumolo, Jr.'s, favorite of grilled turkey and egg whites.
And for dessert, there is Eleanor Strumolo's homemade rice pudding.
“She's well known for her rice pudding,” Denise Corbo said.
For those who have yet to check out Belleville's friendliest new restaurant, Ellie's Kitchen is located at 579 Belleville Ave. and will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to either 1 or 2 p.m. on weekends.
"It was a happy day for us. We were blessed to see the support we got from our friends," Vinnie Strumolo, Jr., said. "We look forward to serving the town some delicious food."