Lisa Ramelow and her La Strada restaurant have long been a staple of the Belmont Shore dining scene, with Ramelow’s exuberance and positivity—always in a flowy dress of sorts as she greeted people on the sidewalk—paired with the restaurant’s classic Italian dishes.

But Ramelow has announced that, come Aug. 22, La Strada will close its doors after serving the community for 27 years. And with that tinge of sadness that some patrons may feel about the closure—and no, it is not because of the COVID-19 pandemic—for Ramelow, it is a moment of celebration and happiness.

“I have loved having my business for 27 years at La Strada, but this has been on my mind for a long, long time,” she said. “In fact, I knew Halloween of last year. There I was in my fluffy Cinderella ballgown, a pair of Elton John sunglasses I stole from my sister’s costume, and I said aloud, ‘I think this is going to be my last year.’ I just knew. And I admit, I admit: My timing does appear to be just awful, but my decision was made on that day and I am stickin’ with it.”

La Strada owner Lisa Ramelow stands with her cardboard cut-out that welcomes guests. Courtesy of Ramelow.

The thing about going to La Strada was the fact that it oozed Ramelow’s spirit: It’s old-fashioned menu has a picture of Ramelow paired with a picture of her mother, Rita, taken in 1947, along with a note to customers that family was not only important but an essential part of La Strada. Photos of her and her children appear on the menu. A life-size cardboard cut-out of Ramelow herself—which she lovingly calls “her bodyguard”—has been there for years.

“It has offered me a way to help young people and to give back to my community,” Ramelow said. “I always told every employee, ‘We aren’t just serving food, we are taking care of people.’ Also, owning a restaurant provided many opportunities for personal growth as I was challenged to find solutions for so many business issues and dilemmas… It was a great roller coaster and I am so grateful to Long Beach for supporting my efforts all these years.”

As for the send-off party, well, there won’t be much of one: Ramelow recognizes the new reality of large gatherings and, instead, is likely to do what she always does.

“I’ll be there in my pretty dress on the last few nights, mask on but smiling, handing out cake and saying goodbye,” Ramelow said. “But there are a few rules if you want to say goodbye properly.”

Here are Ramelow’s rules, which she hopes everyone will follow with respect and care:

  • La Strada only has 4-5 tables, depending on the “grace and kindness of the UPS owners next door who don’t mind a table or two in front of their store after they are closed.”
  • La Strada cannot do reservations: “I can’t hold tables in the current environment; it is what it is.”
  • If you have a big group of six or more, La Strada may be able to arrange something if you are willing to come early.
  • La Strada will be open at 4 p.m. every day and will stay open until 8 p.m., and on some evenings a little later.
  • La Strada will have their full menu with some drinks and wines missing.
  • La Strada will still have takeout and limited delivery.
  • Be kind and patient.
  • And lastly, there will be no big final goodbye, to which Ramelow notes:

“That’s impossible right now, let’s be honest. But I’ll be there in my pretty dress. Promise.”

La Strada is located at 4716 E. Second Street in Belmont Shore.