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M’Tucci’s preparing to expand into Rio Rancho early in new year

Take authentic Italian tradition, mix it with 25 years of hands-on experience in the New York restaurant industry and you get the unique flavor of M’Tucci’s.

M’Tucci’s Italian Restaurant plans to expand into Rio Rancho with M’tucci’s Moderno early in the new year, according to owners Jeff Spiegel and Katie Gardner.

Gardner said M’tucci’s signed a lease for more than 3,000 square feet in what used to be Wise Pies and Prime eateries, off Unser Boulevard and just west of Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.

It will be the second M’Tucci’s restaurant in the Albuquerque area; the other is on Winter Haven Road, near Coors Boulevard and Montaňo Road. M’Tucci’s also has a catering service, M’Tucci’s Cocina, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

M’Tucci’s Moderno will feature a full bar, dining room and a mezzanine area above the bar. The owners are seeking a modern look, Gardner said.

“The area fit a lot of our criteria, including the timing,” Gardner said. “We feel we are moving into an incredibly underserved market, but also a market that will be very happy about having a neighborhood kind of a place to go to.”

John Haas, executive head chef and part owner of M’Tucci’s, said he pushed for the new location because it is where he lives.

“I live four blocks away from the restaurant. … I bought my home there and I love the community and when that location became available it was of very high interest to me,” Haas said.

Haas said his goal is to give the people of Rio Rancho a great restaurant experience.

“In my 18 years of experience I choose food for the menu from intuition,” Haas said. “Some of it is just tried-and-true old world techniques.”

Haas’s experience includes seven years as an executive chef for the Bravo Cocina restaurant chain, he said. An Iowa native, Haas was inspired to pursue culinary arts full-time after being mentored by Chef James Adrian.

“I just worked under him for a year, but he inspired and taught me everything,” Haas said. “I owe a lot of gratitude to his teaching.”

After learning culinary basics at many private restaurants and working for a major chain, Haas decided to go on his own and begin a new tradition with M’tucci’s.

Many of the plates on the M’Tucci’s Moderno menu come from the idea of comfort and tradition, like spaghetti and meatballs, he said. Other selections include a braised pork cheek and an Italianized version of buffalo shrimp.

“What better place to do it than close to where you live?” Haas said. “You know your neighbors and friends are the ones coming out and getting to experience this.”

Patron Jon Word said he met a friend at M’Tucci’s on a whim and was so impressed by the food and the atmosphere he became a regular.

“The people of Rio Rancho are in for a delightful experience, outstanding food and great service.” Word said.

The atmosphere of M’Tucci’s is inviting and the cost is reasonable for the quality of food people can expect, he said.

Spiegel said being a hands-on owner provides many positives for the business, as well as a sense of friendship for customers.

Spiegel said he and Gardner have 25 years experience in the restaurant business opening 11 successful restaurants in the New York area.

“Our business is to create a long-lived community of restaurants that we regard as gathering spots,” Spiegel said. “What we do with our business, we expect to be there for 25 years.”

Spiegel said Rio Rancho can rely on the highest-quality food and a comprehensive cocktail menu, which includes wine and beer.

M’Tucci’s will also have 35 various positions to fill upon the restaurant’s opening early next year, according to Spiegel.

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