Executive Chef Melissa Close-Hart will head the kitchen at Junction. Raised in Alabama, Melissa has been in the restaurant business since she was 16 years old and is a Distinguished Graduate from New England Culinary Institute and Alumna of the Year in 2005. She set out her culinary career focusing on Italian cuisine while working for award-winning chef Frank Stitt at Bottega Restaurant & Café located in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 90's. Her quest to refine her fluency in Italian cuisine led her to San Francisco's Rose Pistola Restaurant.
After taking a hiatus to work for one of her early culinary mentors and fellow Charlottesville chef, Craig Hartman, at The Cliff House at Pikes Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado, she was drawn back to Italian cuisine when asked to take the Executive Chef's position at Palladio Restaurant in 2000.
She brought both national and international recognition for Palladio Restaurant through her constant striving to create menus with the freshest ingredients found locally and internationally. During the restaurant's annual closings in January, Melissa and her staff traveled across the Atlantic to stage in some of Italy's finest establishments to expand their knowledge of Italian cuisine.
Melissa and her staff's commitment for excellence has won her induction in the Chaine des Rôtisseurs, and five invitations to create dinners at the world renown James Beard House in New York City, a great honor bestowed upon select chefs in the country. The James Beard Organization has also recognized Melissa as a semi-finalist for Best Chef of the Mid-Atlantic on four different occasions.
Melissa left Palladio in 2015 to pursue a new adventure by teaming up with local Charlottesville restauranteur Adam Frazier and her husband Matthew Hart to help develop Junction.
A Charlottesville-area native, Alec Spidalieri has been stationed behind a bar since April 2010- the moment after he reached 21 years of age. He managed the bar at the Local from 2015-2017, where he expanded their cocktail program, and left to begin the beverage program for Junction.
Alec is a serious believer in the 'do-it-yourself’ approach. He believes that with objectivity and an analytic mindset, taking ownership and creating your own ingredients in every situation possible will almost always yield the best results. With the exception of a few irreplaceable commercial products (like Angostura bitters, for instance), everything behind Junction’s bar is made fresh and in-house, from the bitters, syrups and infusions to the freshly-squeezed juices. Alec has always enjoyed the concept of the exclusivity of certain cocktails: only being able to get a drink that you especially love in one place, where it’s just right. Something- whether it’s the glassware, or the atmosphere, or just the subtle difference in the way the bartender makes it for you- that you just can’t quite re-create at home. He’s hoping that place will be a seat at his bar.
When beginning the bar program for Junction, Alec envisioned the restaurant's bar scene as being a cross between a neighborhood bar and a craft cocktail bar; a place that you can go to enjoy high-quality, carefully-made cocktails that stand out in an ever-expanding world of bars and restaurants, but in a relaxed, casual atmosphere where one would be just as comfortable and content grabbing a beer after work with some friends.