Chef Anthony Bucco, whose distinguished career includes the North Jersey gems Ryland Inn and Restaurant Latour, has had longtime plans to open Felina, a contemporary Italian bar-restaurant, in Ridgewood, N.J.
The project has been beset by delays. It's now up for November.
Meanwhile, his business partners, developers Frank and Jeanne Cretella, had a vacant restaurant space, the old Mansion Inn at 9 S. Main St. in New Hope, an hour and a half away.
The Cretellas, who also own Logan Inn and Hotel du Village in the borough, are renovating the mid-19th-century mansion, which has guest rooms on upper floors and last was used as a tea room.
Felina will first open there — just off the bridge into Lambertville and next door to Marsha Brown's restaurant — on Sept. 27.
Though Bucco had planned the New Hope Felina as a pop-up (e.g. a limited engagement), he believes that it could become permanent, pending a planned redevelopment of the Mansion property not expected to begin before next summer.
Bucco is using the New Hope space — which includes a lovely 28-seat dining room with period decor, a 16-seat bar in a separate room, and a private dining room with a small garden — as a proof of concept.
It also will be a training ground for his staff, including chef de cuisine Martina Krowicka, bar manager Christopher James, and front-of-the-house manager Beverly Lascina. New Hope will remain open concurrently with the Ridgewood Felina, which will replace an old bank on Ridgewood Avenue.
Bucco's opening menu is heavy on the pasta and vegetables; entree prices are squarely in the $20s. He's sourcing as much locally as possible, including grains from the nearby Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown. Figure on what Bucco calls a "fine casual" approach — not stuffy.
Wine list is studded with Californians and Europeans. Bar includes cocktails; note the rocks, which James stamps with the restaurant name in a novel flourish.
It's certainly an, um, ice-breaker.
It will be open nightly for dinner (5 to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday), with walk-ins only at the outset. Bar will be open later. Weekend brunch is planned.