By Regine Victoria (File photo)
The space vacated last year by the Del Ray culinary institution Mancini’s is once again bustling with hungry visitors as Junction Bakery and Bistro officially opened last month.
The spot in southern Del Ray is not only close to home for both owner Noe Landini, who owns a number of other local restaurants, and chef/baker Nathan Hatfield. The location is also a bit quieter than the main stretch of Mount Vernon Avenue, so Landini said it was the perfect place for he and Hatfield to bring something new to the neighborhood.
Landini said they loved the location — and Mancini’s itself — and that they hope to carry on the same character that the former restaurant did.
“We bake bread and great breakfast just like Mancini’s, but more importantly, we aim to serve as a gathering spot for the neighborhood to carry on the same sense of community,” Landini said. “Mancini’s was always such a big community space, and we don’t want that to change. We want to welcome everyone with the same warm smile that Barbara [Mancini] did.”
The closure of Mancini’s in October 2015 was one of several longtime businesses to close last fall and winter. Although some already have been replaced — the former location of Why Not? on King Street soon will house a Comfort One Shoes — the closings led officials to change the permitting process to make it easier for businesses to open in the city.
Landini said Junction is unique in that it doesn’t operate solely as a place to have a meal, but it also operates as a traditional bakery from which to pick up bread. Junction sends its creations to other restaurants owned by Landini, including the Fish Market, Landini Brothers and CXIII Rex in Old Town, as well as to other local restaurateurs.
“We wanted to introduce a new concept to Del Ray that we thought people would like: Premium ingredients — local when- ever possible — a beautiful space, great food and drink, all just around the corner from home,” Landini said. “It’s a concept that embodies my previous experience and Nathan’s too. We chose the name Junction to represent those ideas and pay homage to Del Ray’s history as a rail yard.”
Junction’s soft opening began July 6, and Landini said the restaurant was received warmly by the community. An overwhelming amount of support led to the bakery and bistro being packed from day one. During their soft opening, the restaurant only served breakfast and lunch during limited hours.
Landini said the soft opening enabled him to collect feedback from customers on the menu and service, and what they could do better. They also took this time to personally connect with those who came in to explain the menu and its various handmade items.
“We don’t have a freezer or a can opener, because we make everything in-house from premium ingredients, and we buy local whenever possible,” Landini said. “We just think it makes sense to serve the best possible food to our customers.”
Junction started serving dinner late last month, and so far Landini said it has been smooth sailing. He gave his compliments to the chef and said Hatfield’s food is excellent, touching on a lot of different flavors that most people have a palate for.
“One of my favorite dishes on the dinner menu is the crispy squash cakes,” Hatfield said. “It’s inspired by a squash casserole recipe that my wife Margaret’s grandmother makes.”