Massimo Ranni, the owner and chef behind Massimo's Cucina Italiana in Bangor, has opened a new family-friendly restaurant in the former Cooks Crossing venue at 237 E. Main St.

Housed in an original Bangor and Aroostook Railroad station built around 1905, with an original 1910 boxcar as the dining area, The Lobster Rail also features plenty of outside dining with front and back decks and a designated pet area.

The restaurant's much-anticipated grand opening took place July 24, showcasing a menu that boasts seafood favorites including lobster, shrimp and crab rolls, as well as hamburgers and hot dogs, and an ice cream booth featuring Gifford's ice cream.

Also on the menu are "Derailed" entrees like "Tropical Lobster" with chunks of mango with yogurt dressing, or "Sea & Turf Burger" with arugula and topped with a spicy mayo and a lobster tail. Beer and wine, as well as canned cocktails, such as an Italian margarita, also are available.

"We're putting a twist with my 'Derailed' menu," Ranni said. "We go off a little from tradition."

The day of the grand opening, he ushered in patrons and noted, "Today is our first day."

"We've been waiting," was a common response. "We drive by here all the time; we are glad you are open."

Ranni purchased the restaurant in June 2018 but he said renovations have taken a while. The space had been vacant for five years and some improvements include new floors in the rail station, fresh coats of paint all around, and a custom kitchen sectional piece created specifically for Ranni by a designer in Italy.

It appears as a kitchen table with marble counter tops, but can be transformed into a bar by rolling the lower sections away.

An eye-catching lobster-themed mural and striped wooden floors adorn the inside of the dining boxcar. The interior was designed by his wife Anne Marie, who worked in the fashion industry in Manhattan, he said.

"We had to stop in the winter," he noted. "There is only so much you can do then."

According to Ranni, The Lobster Rail will offer market and bakery items, as well as a space for cooking lessons, private parties and events. He hopes to have the station ready by the end of August.

He credits his grandmother with inspiring him as a young man to start his own bakery in Italy, which he ran successfully for 15 years.

In 1998, Ranni moved to the U.S. and opened a bakery and trattoria about 40 minutes from Manhattan in Montclair, New Jersey.

With his wife, he later opened Massimo's Cucina Italiana in Bangor in 2007. In 2011 he opened Massimo's Breads, and Massimo's Pizza Bar in 2015. A year later, he decided to retire, closed all of his venues and moved to California for eight months.

He soon realized he missed restaurant life.

Massimo's Cucina Italiana is closed for the summer, but Ranni said he expects to re-open that location in the fall.

His son, a recent graduate of a culinary arts program in Italy, also was on hand for The Lobster Rail opening, working at the new family business.

"Most people who work here are students; I know their parents, too," Ranni said. "It's a good experience."

After introducing every one of his staff, he said there was a person he forgot to mention.

"He has been with me for a couple of years," Ranni said. "He has a lot of experience."

That person is Ron Way, 78, former owner of Just Barb's in Stockton Springs and Ron's Cafe in Brewer. Way said he helps Ranni in whatever way he can.

"Enjoy what you are doing," he said, "and you enjoy life."

The Lobster Rail is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, call 249-6623.