If there’s such a thing as a restaurant homecoming, Dylan Simon is about to come home.
A decade ago, Simon worked for Ray and Grace Diaz at Nonna’s Deli Sioso, a much-missed Italian-style eatery across the street from Harrisburg’s Midtown Cinema.
Today, he’s back in that same kitchen, working on much of the same equipment, as he makes plans to open his own place, called Right on Reily, which is slated for a soft opening on April 2.
“I fell in love with this space when it was Nonna’s,” said the 27-year-old, pausing for a brief conversation between painting, planning and fixing. “Then I missed it every time it changed hands.”
And changed hands, it has.
After Nonna’s closed, the spot briefly became Cribari’s Ristorante then, even more briefly, Mom’s Tamales and Pupusas. But, most of the time, it’s sat empty, despite its seemingly great location a stone’s throw from the cinema, Zeroday Brewing Co. and HACC’s Midtown campus.
Simon, who you also may know as the guy who’s made your cocktail at Rubicon, said that he put a great deal of thought into what would work best in the spot.
He believes that a winning formula is a mix of freshly made sandwiches, salads, soups and desserts served in the casual dining room—in other words, a real neighborhood bistro. About one-quarter of the menu will be vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, he said, and many of the ingredients will come from local farmers market and CSAs (community-supported agriculture).
Simon plans to open for the day at 7 a.m. with bakery and breakfast items, including breakfast sandwiches on homemade rolls. Lunch will follow, and he expects to offer a fixed-price dinner on weekends, though not immediately. He said he’ll run the BYOB restaurant with his fiancée, Erin O’Dea.
“This is a dream of mine,” he said. “I remember wanting to own my restaurant since I remember wanting to do anything in my life.”
For four years, Simon was a football coach at Central Dauphin High School, and he now hopes to engage with the Harrisburg school district, bringing students in who want to learn about the restaurant business and about eating healthy.
And what about the colorful, tropical mural that graces the front of the building, an echo of the brief time last year it served as a Salvadoran eatery? Simon said that he’s been in touch with the artist and that they may be able to create a concept more suited to the new restaurant.
Above all, Simon said that he’s focused on the community and will adapt to what it needs.
“It’s going to be another solid location for Midtown Harrisburg and for the city,” he said.
Right on Reily is expected to open on April 2 at 263 Reily St., Harrisburg.