If we’re lucky, The Street at Chestnut Hill’s rotating pop-up store may have found a tenant that could become a permanent addition to the area’s carefully curated collection of shops and restaurants. The storefront—which has featured many local businesses such as a bagel shop, a gourmet candy store, a stationery shop, and a ice cream parlour—became home to Ronsky’s at the Pop-Up this past Monday.
Created and run by the James Beard Award-winning chef Ron Suhanosky, Ronsky’s channels the ethos of an authentic Italian bar, serving everything from artisanal coffee and freshly baked goods to seemingly simple meals that are already wowing diners with their complex range of flavors.
Even though Ronsky’s has turned out to be so much more, Suhanosky developed the idea around early August, following a desire to bring an easily accessible source of high-quality coffee to the Chestnut Hill area.
So he explained this concept of a casual, yet sophisticated, Italian café to the Street’s property managers, and quickly piqued their interest. By August 22—the last day for the pop-up’s previous tenants—Suhanosky had taken over the space, and began tackling the store’s interior design.
This entailed covering the ceiling with embossed ceiling tiles, and incorporating around 250 sheets of shimmering gold leaf onto the soft gray walls. After finishing the harlequin-patterned floor, Suhanosky moved his equipment into the space, which not only included the supplies he needed to create his delicious menu items, but also a counter so people can see and interact with those in the kitchen while drinking their coffee, and a kitchen table for customers to enjoy their meals.
This table, which exudes an easy yet old-world elegance, once belonged to Suhanosky’s great-grandmother, and embodies the sophisticated community centric ethos that Ronsky’s exudes.
That ethos is just as clear—if not even more so—in Ronsky’s menu, which will continue to expand and change as the seasons change. Currently, the menu features avocado toast and pear ricotta toast in addition to a selection of baked goods—like Banana Nutella loaf, fig chocolate muffins, and scones—that are made in-house. By the end of the week, this menu will have expanded to include paninis and simple salads, but the current items are already more than enough to keep diners coming back.
Many are charmed by the avocado toast in particular, which is unlike other versions of the trendy item found in the area. Using crunchy, whole-wheat bread (chosen for the added flavor), the toast highlights an interplay of simple flavors—spice from garlic and arugula, acidity from citrus, and sweetness from cherry tomatoes—that elevate the dish beyond expectations.
This theme of elevating the simple is a focus Suhanosky aims to emphasize and maintain through Ronsky’s small size and menu.
“I just wanted to focus in on quality number one, and smaller things like paninis and salads,” Suhanosky said. “I felt like I really didn’t want to engage in a full on restaurant—which I’ve done in the past and I’ve been successful at—but it’s a lot of work with employees, trying to find quality staff, and keeping quality up.”
As the menu expands—customers can look forward to a breakfast sandwich on black pepper brioche and a roasted cauliflower and goat cheese sandwich—Suhanosky will maintain the superior quality of his food with seasonal menu items and locally sourced ingredients.
Diners can also expect a host of signature menu staples of the sweet variety, like Ronsky’s made-to-order cinnamon sugar and ricotta zeppole.
These zeppole are Italian donuts made from a recipe passed down from Suhanosky’s great-grandmother. Always piping hot, with a sweet and crunchy outside and a fluffy and flavorful inside, these zeppole add something special to any day.
In addition to providing Chestnut Hill with delicious yet accessible food, Suhansky is also focused on interacting with the community he will serve during the coming months.
“I just knew that there was a sophisticated pallette here, that people were craving something with a little character, a little personality, not so generic,” Suhanosky said. “To me that’s what success is—bringing people together here to just have an experience. My view on food has always been not just about the food, it’s always been about the entire experience.”
And as diners watch Suhanosky interact with the community that is already forming around the shop after just three days, his excitement for this project is obvious. He feels like he needs the community aspect the pop-up provides.
“I could have easily gone down the celebrity chef road, and have done TV shows and all of that stuff,” he said. “But I love cooking, I love food, I love simple stuff, I love flavors … And a lot of times it gets lost in translation when you allow it to go too far or grow too big.”
Chestnut Hill is certain to have that aspect until the end of the year, when Ronsky’s is scheduled to leave the pop-up location, but we can only hope—as Suhanosky already does—that it might become a more permanent addition somewhere in the area.
Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor