Locomotive is a Junction café that wants to be known for more than its espresso. That is not to say, however, that owners Vito Carnovale and Paul Araujo are modest about their Italian espresso.
"I love coffee," Vito says as I catch his by the steel bar of his new train-themed café. "And our espresso--it's the real deal."
"But food is so often overlooked," he continues. It becomes second. Here, the concept is coffee and food."
Locomotive offers fresh sandwiches, salads, and baked goods, most of which is prepared fresh onsite, right down to the very basics.
"We cure our own bacon here," Vito says. "We roast the chicken, the porchetta--that's the pork shoulder--we marinate it in red wine for days. We make our own mayo, we do all of that."
There are a few imports, however, including the Montreal-style bagels for the bagel BLT ($4.99) and the croissants from Ma Maison. They share a menu with signature sandwiches including Roast Chicken ($5.99), Turkey Club ($6.99), and Porchetta ($5.99).
I've arrived at Locomotive severely under-caffeinated, however, so I scan the list of espresso-based drinks and opt for an iced espresso ($2.00). "It's done the authentic Italian way," the barista tells me as she retrieves a container from the front cooler. To make its iced espresso, Locomotive pulls its shots then freezes them overnight with a bit of sugar to cut through some of the acidity.
The frozen espresso is then retrieved for each drink and mixed with cream or milk to create a very bold, but very refreshing summer drink. Generally, I find iced coffee drinks to lack a bit of punch, but this one has quite a full-bodied flavour, along with a little bit of nuttiness.
While the coffee and food might be Italian in flavour, the café in form is a testament to the Junction history, decorated with archival railroad photos, train track-inspired lighting, and tables and shelves made from 1879 Douglas fir. Still, Paul and Vito manage to intertwine a bit of their own personal histories with that of the area with things like Vito's mother's signature tomato sauce for sale in the café. And the espresso itself also sparks some nostalgia for Vito.
"I have early memories of being spoon-fed espresso," he says with a smile. "I grew up in an Italian home, after all."