New Eats in Oxford: Saint Leo

Posted on Oct 26 2015 - 8:27am by Caroline Callaway

From California to New York City and, finally, to Oxford, Emily Blount, owner of Saint Leo Wood Fire Italian Restaurant, is introducing unique flavors and dishes to this small Southern town.
“I have a passion for providing exceptional hospitality and great food,” Blount said.
Blount worked in the restaurant business since she was a teenager and said she saw the opportunity to open her own establishment when she, her husband and two children moved to Oxford three years ago.
“My husband was born in Oxford and we wanted to be close to family and raise our kids in a small town,” Blount said. “We saw a gap in the food scene here and wanted to bring a community-minded place that introduces new flavors to the conversation.”
The name Saint Leo came to Blount by accident.
“The name just sort of happened,” Blount said. “My sister suggested it. My middle name is Rome, Saint Leo was the protector of the city of Rome.”
Blount said the most important concern while opening Saint Leo is they use the freshest ingredients possible in their food. Saint Leo will be sourcing from local farms including The Peeples Farm for chicken and eggs, Native Son Farms, Mudline Farm, Woodson Ridge and Brown Family Dairy.
Food will be cooked in a wood-burning oven, which allows for a faster cook time at a higher temperature. The menu will feature wood-fired pizza, rotisserie chicken and other proteins from the oven, seasonal salads, handmade pasta and small batch house-made ice cream. Saint Leo will also have a full bar with seasonal cocktails.
“(The menu is) definitely influenced by my childhood in California, eating out of my mom’s garden, by my years in New York, by traditional Italian cooking, and by the simplicity of cooking with wood fire,” Blount said.
When it comes to the menu, Blount said she collaborated with Dan Latham of L&M’s Kitchen and Salumeria, as well as Marco D’Emidio who is “amazing with all things dough” and brings a lot of experience from growing up in Italy.
“Saint Leo isn’t a ‘chef’-centric concept,” Blount said. “It’s more about how we responsibly source food and use traditional cooking techniques to bring simple, fresh, consistently delicious Italian fare to the people of Oxford in a great atmosphere.”
While there is no set location for Saint Leo as of now, Blount describes the atmosphere of the restaurant as a combination of “understated luxury and hipness with the earthy, modernist simplicity associated with the farm-to-table movement.”
The restaurant is scheduled to open in 2016, but in the meantime, Saint Leo has catered a few private events and hosted two “pop-up” dinners. The first was at the Powerhouse and, according to Blount, felt more like a party than work. The second was a food-truck style display at the One Night Stand Motel Art Show, held Oct. 17 at the Ole Miss Motel. They brought their portable wood-fire oven to give patrons a taste of what Saint Leo is all about.
“The pop-ups are designed to try out some of our menu ideas, to get feedback — start seeing what’s working and what’s not,” Blount said. “We love being a part of cool events in Oxford and love being able to take our food to these spots.”
The final Saint Leo pop-up dinner will be held Friday, Nov. 20 at the Powerhouse. There will be cocktails and appetizers from 6 – 7 p.m. followed by a sit-down, family style dinner. Tickets are $40.
For more information on what’s in store for Saint Leo, visit their website,, or follow them on Twitter (@eatsaintleo), Instagram (@eat_saint_leo) and Facebook.