Very Richmond #2: Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli

Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli is the first restaurant in which I ever had the pleasure of dining in Richmond. I love the restaurant and the entire package. No frills, no specials, no hype. Just great food from a family-owned restaurant set in a quality neighborhood in the Museum District. Very Richmond.

From the restaurant’s website:

Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli and Bar is where good friends go to meet! Opened in 1952 by Mario Chiocca, his son Tim Chiocca took over Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli and Bar in 1978. Home of made-to-order deli subs and sandwiches like the wildly popular sailor, the classic reuben, the Downstairs Dagwood (served cold), the Beast Feast and the Downstairs sub, ALL of Chiocca’s delicious subs and sandwiches are prepared with double portions.

When I was a kid, my Dad used to bring us to Richmond to visit museums and his old college stomping grounds from the early 1960s.  He used to eat and drink at Chiocca’s way back when. I moved to Richmond in 1988 and my parents would often have me meet them at Chiocca’s when they came to visit. Julian’s was another favorite of my Dad’s (he even worked there in the 60s), but it’s long gone now.

About 20 years ago, the wallbox jukeboxes were still at the tables. They are gone now, but that might be the last big change in the place. So much of the wall decor seems to be original to the tiny cellar-dwelling eatery. Sports banners, black and white photos, outdoor knickknacks and the old booths and bar stools — all seem locked in time.

425 North Belmont in the Museum District

Chiocca's Downstairs Deli - 425 North Belmont in the Museum District

Eventually, I moved just down the street from Chiocca’s and my roommates and I decided it would be our place. Once we started becoming regulars, I started paying more attention to the crowd. Benedictine High School and St. Benedict’s Church are right around the corner and Chiocca’s is their place. Plus, all the students and neighborhood people who grew up with Chiocca’s still come back. Dedicated, tough, hard-working honest people.

Best memory? A big snow storm in Richmond in the mid-90s shut down much of the city. My roommates all had the day off, decided to play and drink all day. We hit Chiocca’s for lunch. It was an instant ski lodge, with scarves and coats hanging from the pipes. Best part was the chalk board stating “What We Have” after all of us had eaten their small storage down in an instant. We got our order about two hours after the waitress took it, but the three pitchers helped pass the time. That day is one of my favorites in Richmond, thanks to Chiocca’s.

I haven’t looked at the menu in years — the Made in Turkey Hot is all I’ll ever need. Their menu is quite extensive, but they have just one toaster oven (it is magic) and the food will get to you when it gets to you. As I’ve often heard from the wait staff, “You’re in a hurry? Why did you come to Chiocca’s?” They say it with sass, not meanness.

Chiocca’s Downstairs Deli is at 425 North Belmont under a house at the intersection with Kennsington Avenue in the Museum District. Very Richmond.


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