Belly is a new wine bar in Kendall Square owned by Nick Zappia and Liz Vilardi, the team behind The Blue Room and 1/2 the team behind Central Bottle. I began consulting for them in March. At that time we thought that my work would solely be focused on improvement at The Blue Room. The Blue Room was opened in 1991 and faced the challenges of a matured business—revenue plateauing, a little set in it’s ways, less responsive to changes in the restaurant community. To Nick and Liz’s immense credit, they were not satisfied with simply accepting these things as a given.
The idea of Belly began unbeknownst to anyone with their decision back in November of 2011 to replace the chef who had been with the restaurant for almost 10 years. Robert Grant came to The Blue Room after 3+ years with Barbara Lynch at The Butcher Shop. Robert is an immensely passionate and talented Chef on all fronts but is especially brilliant with charcuterie and sausages.
After about a month of trailing and attending meetings for the restaurant we dove into the financial history looking for trending and potential opportunities to continue the evolution that began with Robert. We quickly realized that event sales in the restaurants had never fully recovered from the financial crisis, true of many restaurants in the city. The semi-private dining room was located on the back side of the circular bar and could seat about 45 people. The space was great when it was occupied but ultimately it could be much more than just a private dining room. I proposed to them that there might be a better way to utilize a space that essentially had it’s own entrance, restrooms, and bar.
From this point it felt very natural to conceptualize around Liz’s unique wine perspective, voice, and editorial. Coupled with Roberts love of charcuterie and the wonderful cheese program at Central Bottle, a new idea was born. Nick and Liz committed to Belly in early May and thanks to design from Dave Rubino of Huth Architects and the team at Cafco Construction we were able to open less than four months later.