It was a blow to Del Ray when Mancini’s Cafe + Bakery shuttered with the announcement of Barbara Mancini’s retirement. Mancini nurtured the community, providing its residents with decades of hot breakfasts and other meals. Taking over the 1508 Mount Vernon Ave. address is Junction Bakery & Bistro from Noe Landini and Nathan Hatfield. Landini is also behind Landini Brothers, Fish Market and Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream in Old Town Alexandria.
Landini says they’ll preserve what Mancini started, at least in spirit. “She still owns the building,” Landini says. “She wouldn’t sell it to me, but she made me promise that if I leased it, I would keep it real.” Mancini has been telling the loyal customers she cultivated since her bakery and cafe opened in 1996 not to worry because the new tenant is not a chain—it’s from hardworking people with a lot of experience. “I want them to put out a good product, and hopefully the neighborhood will dictate what they do,” Mancini says. “They’ll know pretty quick if it’s not working right.”
Part of keeping it real means Junction Bakery & Bistro will continue to serve three meals a day as a part of the American bistro “with a twist” concept that also boasts a wholesale bakery. Hatfield, the man whose hands will mind the dough, has an impressive resume. He baked at Restaurant Eve, Society Fair and Le Diplomate. “A lot of people don’t know this, but he’s a talented chef, too,” Landini says of his partner, who will share chef duties with Cory Fey. Little of the menu is known to date, other than the fact that the team will try to emulate the bistro concept that originated in France, where the dining room serves as an extension of neighbors’ homes and where menus change based on availability.
Former Mancini’s Cafe + Bakery patrons can expect their old standby to look different, too. “We are stripping her down to the bones and starting over for sure,” Landini says. Current exploratory demolition has revealed an old tin ceiling that Landini guesses dates back 50 years. It will become part of the finished product. “Anything we can keep historically with the building we will, otherwise we will rebuild using what we’ve got while trying to reproduce the style of the old and new neighborhood.”
Aesthetically, Junction Bakery & Bistro will pay tribute to the time the area was a thriving home for Potomac Yard rail workers. “We’ll use a lot of the styles and architectural finishes from the old railroad family homes and bungalows in Del Ray,” Landini explains. He’s also planning to use old railroad denim with a custom pattern to cover the banquettes.
We asked Mancini if she plans to be a customer. “Yes of course. I have a key,” she tells us. “I wish them well; they’re young enough to handle it.” Permitting and the build-out is on track for a spring 2016 opening.
Laura Hayes hails from Philly (but don’t hold it against her). She’s been covering the local dining scene for three years, and her work has been published in the Washington Post, Food Network, Washington City Paper, Arlington Magazine and more. Having lived in Japan for two years, she finds herself in a constant state of craving sushi. Laura always orders her favorite savory dish again for dessert and keeps her gut in check through lots of CrossFit classes.