ESSEX JUNCTION – A bit of Italy by way of New Jersey has found its way to a food-centric building near Five Corners.
What is the place?
Open since April 2, The Food Bar is in the Park Street building that also houses Mark BBQ and the adjacent restaurant Heart n Soul. It’s near the busy Five Corners intersection that includes eateries such as Firebird Café and McGillicuddy’s Five Corners.
“They started calling this place ‘Food Corners,’” The Food Bar owner Alex Morano said.
Her eatery offers Italian-American fare including chicken parmesan, eggplant rollatini, cheese ravioli pomodoro, rigatoni Bolognese and meat or cheese lasagna. Open more than 12 hours most days, The Food Bar also serves breakfast items such as omelets and egg platters.
As the name suggests, the business is part-food, part-bar, so The Food Bar has a fully-stocked bar. The Food Bar will hold about 50 patrons in normal times but only 20 or so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Morano said she will have a few tables on the porch out front that The Food Bar shares with Heart n Soul.
What’s the story behind it?
Morano is from Monmouth County, New Jersey, and The Food Bar reflects her family heritage in that region. She said her family is involved in catering, and the “FAT” sandwiches and Bolognese sauce she features at The Food Bar are common in her home state’s Italian-American communities.
“I don’t reinvent the wheel, I just bring the wheel to Vermont,” Morano said. “It’s all about the stuff you could get at an Italian deli in New Jersey or New York.”
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Morano attended Hofstra University on Long Island, New York, and studied film before discovering she didn’t like the film industry. She did like Vermont, however – snowboarding in particular – and starting about a decade ago moved between Vermont and New Jersey before settling back in the Green Mountain State.
She also found that, coming from a family of entrepreneurs, she liked business, so she opened Valley Vape seven years ago. She also owns JRA Tradesmen, a bathroom/kitchen flooring business.
What’s it like opening in a pandemic?
Morano began plans for The Food Bar in April 2019 and intended to open the eatery in April 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival in March 2020 derailed that idea.
She put The Food Bar on hold to concentrate on getting her other two Essex Junction businesses through the pandemic – both did well, according to Morano – and aimed to open the restaurant last fall. COVID numbers started climbing again, so The Food Bar returned to the back burner.
Morano said the pandemic also delayed construction and licensing. “It ended up being a crawl to get it open,” she said.
But it made sense, after starting plans for The Food Bar in one April and aiming to open it in the next April, that it finally opened in April of 2021.
“April is my month here,” Morano said.
Hours and location
The Food Bar, 34 Park St., Essex Junction. 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. (802) 662-5661, facebook.com/thefoodbarVT/
Contact Brent Hallenbeck at [email protected] Follow Brent on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck.