Princeton University has selected the Terra Momo Restaurant Group to operate the café and restaurant that are planned for the existing Dinky station buildings once a new train station is built farther south.
The historic Dinky Station buildings, located along University Place near McCarter Theatre, will be converted into a restaurant and cafe as part of the school’s $330 million Arts and Transit project. The north building will become a cafe, and the south building will be expanded and turn into a full-service restaurant. A new Dinky station will be built about 460 feet south of the existing station.
“Terra Momo presented thoughtful and exciting plans for both the café and restaurant that would meet the needs of commuters, McCarter Theatre, local residents and the University. They have strong ties and demonstrated success in Princeton,” said Kristin Appelget, director of community and regional affairs, in a news story posted on Princeton University’s website this morning. “We are looking forward to collaborating with Raoul and Carlo Momo and their team at Terra Momo on these new dining options that are such an important component of our Arts and Transit Project.”
The University will enter in to a letter of intent with Terra Momo, owned by brothers Raoul and Carlo Momo, confirming the group’s selection, and the two parties will now negotiate lease term, according to the story.
Terra Momo plans to establish a pizzeria-style café in the north terminal building, with 54 seats including bar seating. The cafe, expected to open in the summer of 2015, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as wine and beer. The town of Princeton does not have any extra liquor licenses and would have to auction off a license if it did. The Terra Momo Group would have to procure one from an existing holder or transfer one from one of their existing establishments, Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi said. The other option would be to run the cafe as a BYOB until they secure a license.
In the south building, formerly used for baggage handling, the group has proposed a farm-to-table restaurant serving lunch and dinner, with seating for 116 patrons inside and 60 seats outside. The University will expand the building before Terra Momo begins interior renovations. The anticipated opening date is spring of 2016.
Terra Momo operates Teresa Caffe, Mediterra, Eno Terra and the Terra Momo Bread Company.
“We’re happy and very excited and looking forward to this,” Carlo Momo said in the University new story. “Even though there’s some sense of comfort knowing we’re involved, we’re also going to surprise people. We hope the café and restaurant will add, with the arts neighborhood being scheduled for that part of town, a whole other dimension and attraction to Princeton itself. Princeton is becoming more and more of a destination and we’d like to make it a dining mecca too.”
The University contacted area restaurateurs in the summer of 2012 to gauge their interest in the project, and a request for proposals went out in the fall. A selection committee consisting of representatives from a variety of University offices, assisted by independent food service consultant Tracy Lawler, reviewed the proposals.
Tucson, Ariz.-based architect Rick Joy, who is designing the new Dinky station, will design the exterior and the addition to the existing station buildings. Construction is slated to begin on the Arts and Transit project this spring, beginning with the construction of a new commuter parking lot, a roundabout at Alexander Street and University Place and a temporary train platform. Next, the new station and Wawa will be built and the existing station buildings will be renovated and expanded, school officials said.