On a recent rainy Friday evening, we were calling around for a place to eat dinner. One restaurant had no reservations till 9 pm (it's still tourist season); another was farther away than we'd realized, and we might end up eating at that same hour. So I pulled into a spot where a pizza shop we'd loved "used to be," and we were pleasantly surprised to find Junction Trattoria & Bistro. The trattoria on one side is a pizzeria/Italian eatery with copper-top tables and roomy booths; the attached bistro is a sports bar Italiano with high-top tables.
Glancing through the trattoria's menu, we saw the usual suspects lined up under pastas (meatballs with marinara, Alfredo, Bolognese, gnocchi) and under pizzas (cheese, sausage, BBQ chicken, Florentine, "meateater"). But we also noted five "gourmet pizzas" — watermelon gazpacho, pork osso bucco (Friday and Saturday only), and a "wine plate," with two specialty cheeses and two specialty cured meats, accompanied by chutney and crostini. This was an Italian eatery with aspirations, we decided. Let's check it out.
The food was, overall, quite good, with minor slip-ups. The service was the most welcoming and helpful we've encountered, beginning with our genuinely cheerful waitress, Danielle, and continuing with the Junction's policy of offering first-time diners a free appetizer combo (ordinarily $12.95). The list of seven apps included wings, chicken tenders, fried mozzarella, and ravioli, but we chose the calamari, the fried polenta, and the fontina de parma. The latter was pronounced "dreamy" by Bill, the cheese wrapped around the prosciutto, three roll-ups on greens, with a balsamic glaze over all. The calamari was very crispy and tender; the polenta creamy.
We moved on to study the page of specials, which included baked polenta with veggies, cucumber-dill salmon, seafood fra diavolo (which a neighboring diner assured us was quite spicy but good), and veal a la Luca, a parmesan-crusted veal cutlet over a salad with chilled roasted asparagus ($15.95). Bill opted for the latter and was very pleased.
Two veal cutlets were presented on a large bed of mesclun greens, tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. In addition, the salad contained tomato chunks, red onion slices, and the aforementioned asparagus, all drizzled with a balsamic glaze and parmesan cheese. The flavors were very compatible, with the greens lightening the entrée considerably.
I looked around for a chicken dish and decided on one called simply "chicken & broccoli," which Danielle told us enthusiastically was her favorite pasta dish after I'd chosen it. The garlic sauce was yummy, and the broccoli was okay, though less generous than I'd envisioned. The problem was with the chicken itself. The breast meat chunks were dry and tough, and although the manager, Sandy, assured me it wasn't sitting around for use on the pizzas, something happened to it before it reached my plate. I'm assuming it was a one-time kitchen glitch.
All around us, a variety of locals were enjoying pizzas: a table of eight teens, a family of five, a young couple on a date, a dad with two kids in tow. So we couldn't resist studying the pizza list again, particularly the 10-inch "gourmet" offerings: a Bolognese with that sauce, roasted garlic, fresh mozzarella; a shrimp pesto; a Thai chicken (or shrimp), with peanut sauce and fresh veggies; a five cheese; and the "bistro" ($11). How could we resist the house specialty?