BLOOMFIELD, NJ – Lunch Box, a familiar destination for hungry students just across Belleville Avenue from Bloomfield High School, has closed. Owner John Getchell, a BHS graduate, class of 1982, said that due to the pandemic help was harder to come by.
According to Getchell, he and Anthony Lauro, owner of Anthony’s Cheesecake and Restaurant on Washington Avenue, opened Lunch Box in February 1996. Lauro, who moved into his own restaurant, sometimes helped out, but Getchell remained the sole owner.
The partners met when they were both in college, and although they didn’t attend the same college, they shared similar culinary dreams.
“I worked at a deli and he was interested in making cheesecakes,” Getchell told The Independent Press on Feb. 11. “He loved to cook and we found a place. This place was a karate school before us.
Leading up to the establishment’s demise, Getchell said, he had been looking for people to work with — but no luck. A sister-in-law, Robin, who also works at Anthony’s Cheesecake, was in the kitchen behind a door.
“I lost my cook to the pandemic,” he said. “We were closed for four months at first.”
Getchell, 57, who lives in Fairfield, plans to retire but will remain in the area. He said the owners of the restaurant next door, Manouche & Co., will expand into Lunch Box. He was planning to close the next day, Saturday February 12, but was possibly going to extend it until Valentine’s Day, February 14. A man in a group of waiting customers yelled at her to leave at the end of the month.
“It’s not easy to leave,” Getchell said. “I have a lot of good customers.”
He called Lunch Box a café, and there were three or four tables comfortably huddled together at the window along Broad Street, away from where the orders were taken. But an immediate impression upon entering was the expanse of open floor space. Racks of treats were meticulously arranged towards the register. The muffins were lovingly displayed in a high glass counter. And behind the counter, with his tipped “For Beer” kettle, Getchell would most often take a customer’s order by their first name.
Vincent Santimone, senior and BHS football player, came in and ordered bacon, eggs and cheese on an all-purpose bagel. Getchell shouted from the cutting board, “He’s my best customer.” Santimone said he stopped by Lunch Box every morning for breakfast.
“Now I will have to cook,” he said.
Vincent came with his sister, Gianna Garcia, BHS Class of 2014. Garcia wanted a Taylor ham and cheese, eggless, on a sesame bagel.
“I think everyone came here,” Garcia said of the high school alumni.
Next door, gypsy owner Elie Chalet said he would offer the same lunch sandwiches as Lunch Box.
“We’re taking over and we want to continue his new legacy and our new legacy,” Chalet said.
He said breakfast sandwiches will be available from Tuesday February 15 and he hopes to open a section of wall between Lunch Box and Manouche by April 1.
Photos by Daniel Jackovino