The wait is almost over for fans of a beloved Binghamton restaurant who've been looking forward to the opening of an eatery that will build on the Red Oak Diner's legacy.

The Little Oak Neighborhood Bistro & Bakery in Conklin is preparing to open its doors this spring.

A pie case and a serving window in the future Little Oak restaurant in Conklin on March 27, 2023. (Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
A pie case and a serving window in the future Little Oak restaurant in Conklin on March 27, 2023. (Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
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Red Oak Diner partner Julianne Ludka and her daughter, Maria Olsen, have been working for several months to set up the new restaurant.

Ludka operated the Red Oak on Front Street in Binghamton with Michael Kapogiannatos for about 35 years. The diner closed in October 2020 amid the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Julianna Ludka takes a break from preparing the future Little Oak restaurant. Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News
Julianna Ludka takes a break from preparing the future Little Oak restaurant. (Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
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Kapogiannatos died the following July. At one point, Ludka considered reopening the Red Oak but decided it was something she couldn't do without her longtime partner.

She still had an urge to run a restaurant, so she's now teamed up with her daughter to open the Little Oak. The new place will be located at 1108 Conklin Road, which most recently had been home to Tonarlo's Pizza shop.

A glimpse inside the Little Oak kitchen area on March 27, 2023. Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News
A glimpse inside the Little Oak kitchen area on March 27, 2023. (Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
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Ludka is excited now that the Little Oak kitchen has been completed and she's hiring restaurant staff.

Plans call for the dining room to be open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Coffee and hot sandwiches will be available for "grab and go" customers. Takeout meals will be offered from 4 to 6 p.m.

Julianne Ludka and Maria Olsen inside their future restaurant on September 27, 2022. Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
Julianne Ludka and Maria Olsen inside their future restaurant on September 27, 2022. (Photo: Bob Joseph/WNBF News)
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Although the Little Oak will be closed Sundays, the restaurant will be available for private events like birthday parties and showers.

Ludka is planning to open the new restaurant on May 1 - an important symbolic date. That was her partner Michael's birthday.

A CHAT WITH JULIANNE LUDKA: Watch our brief conversation recorded on March 27, 2023.

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Contact WNBF News reporter Bob Joseph: bob@wnbf.com or (607) 545-2250. For breaking news and updates on developing stories, follow @BinghamtonNow on Twitter.

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