Being in the presence of Josh Smith, owner of Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham and its gastropub conjoined twin restaurant next door—Moody’s Backroom, which opened in early April—is being the presence of a true meat-centric bon vivant.
“It’s just the best thing in the world getting to start your day lighting a big fire,” he says while loading and igniting wood in his hulking custom copper-top oven. “Fucking primal. Look at that. That’s how we got to start today.”
To wised-up foodies in the city, Smith’s penchant for meat is well known. His New England Charcuterie project started about four years ago, when Smith was tinkering with recipes and running the early stages of his operation out of Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington. After the restaurant would shut down, Smith would head into a rented space in the walk-in cooler and hand-mix spices he’d haul over from his garage, grind and stuff his meat, and generally use his passion for the trade to fill the hours (and his meat casings) six days a week. And then … he’d give all the meat away to local chefs and friends as he continued to tinker with his recipes.
“What you’re seeing is 15 years of obsession,” he says. “We have 89 products, and every day I try to do the best I can to just make everything as perfect as possible.”
The obsession has paid off. Smith has created a destination gastropub-deli hybrid with Moody’s Backroom that anyone who has sampled his wares knows is worthy of the praise it has garnered to date, and moreover, the quick jaunt to Waltham from Boston. The svelte dining area and bar is lined with limestone reclaimed from a French abbey and capped by high ceilings held up by walls adorned with country-style jar work, with hanging legs of aging prosciutto made from pigs that Smith and his team actually raise themselves at a small family farm in Auburn. He works with an agricultural program out of Tufts University for which every year Smith and his team get 10-15 heritage breed piglets to be hand-raised and fed produce and veggies grown right on the farm.
“Once a month we bring in four whole animals, take the legs, and process them as prosciutto,” he says. “We age them for two years, and we’ve been doing it for three years at this point, so now we’re pulling and using the two-year-old stuff that’s been curing all this time.”
Which isn’t to say that it’s all process and no passion for Smith. Trained in classic French methods, Smith got the jones to open the spot two and a half years ago, after he had already traveled all over the country, getting into processing facilities and asking questions wherever possible. From there, he got the necessary certifications to turn the subterranean space (dubbed “the food lab”) at Moody’s into a fully certified meat-curing cleanroom that’s monitored and tested for purity at every level.
In addition to all of the outstanding meat variants (not to mention the knockout Cuban sandwich), Moody’s Backroom also house-ferments all its own sauerkraut and vegetables, spice kits, and sea salts from Italy and France (“both of my loves,” says Smith). In the end, it’s the attention to every minute detail as well as the creative takes on classic charcuterie that have won Smith fans and accolades both from those within the industry and the hungry denizens of the Hub.
“I just figured it out,” he says. “A lot of this stuff I’m really passionate about, and it comes natural to me. I understand the process, therefore I can create the process.”
THE BACKROOM AT MOODY’S DELICATESSEN AND PROVISIONS. NOW OPEN TUES-SAT 4PM-10PM. 468 MOODY ST., WALTHAM. MOODYSWALTHAM.COM