Shlomo Ben-Hamoo can’t walk two feet through his new restaurant, Shlomo’s Deli and Grill, without stopping to talk to someone he knows, his Israeli accent only adding to his irresistible charm. He works the room, shaking hands and kissing babies, his long limbs and larger-than-life personality big enough to wrap itself around the place twice.
After a 15-year hiatus from the restaurant business, he reopened in the Residences at The Little Nell, just steps from the same spot at the base of Aspen Mountain where he ran his first deli almost 40 years ago. The operation’s a lot fancier now than it was back then, but one thing that remains constant is Shlomo’s unwavering belief in Aspen’s soul.
AS: It’s killing you to sit still.
SBH: I have to sit with my back to the dining room because I can see there are a few people I didn’t say hi to.
AS: You seriously know how to work the room.
SBH: Listen, everybody I know, they said I’m crazy to come back to the restaurant business. But I really have passion for it. The funny thing is I don’t even know how to cook. But I love food, and I love this food. And I love the people.
AS: Let’s talk about the food.
SBH: We’re an American deli and family-style diner. If you ask me, what am I bringing to the table, I’m bringing a beautiful place every local can afford without going into shock when you get the bill.
AS: What are some favorite dishes?
SBH: The best-sellers right now are the matzo ball soup and the Reuben. This is the food people love to eat.
AS: Some popular and affordable local restaurants, like Little Annie’s, have recently closed. What made you want to try again?
SBH: It was the right time. I love the idea of coming back to the same place I left almost 40 years ago. It’s like coming home.
AS: Things are a lot different now than they were back then.
SBH: What’s changed? In my eyes, nothing. It’s the same town with the same soul. People talk about the good old days, but I would much rather be sitting here in this beautiful space than in the shack where I started. What’s so wrong with a five-star hotel? It’s fabulous.
AS: Why do you think other restaurants have failed in this spot?
SBH: I don’t know why the others failed, but just because a restaurant is popular in New York and Miami doesn’t mean it’s going to succeed in Aspen. I just hope that I will be here for many years to come.
Shlomo's Deli & Grill
501 E. Dean St., Aspen, 970-315-4055, @shlomosdeli