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Couple working to bring Scalo back to life

All the windows are covered up with paper as the old Scalo restaurant in Nob Hill is being revamped by new owners with tentative plans to open sometime in the new year. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Prashant Sawant and his wife, Kristie, moved to Albuquerque from the San Francisco bay area more than a decade ago, they wanted to find a restaurant that lived up to their high standards for food and wine. The search brought the couple to Scalo Northern Italian Grill, and they agreed that it did not disappoint.

They returned plenty of times after that, until the restaurant abruptly shut its doors late last year. The sudden closure disappointed the Sawants, and many other loyal fans.

After seeing others try in vain to revive the popular Nob Hill restaurant, the couple decided to do something about it. The Sawants purchased Scalo and made a plan to give it a new lease on life.

They are planning to revamp the ambiance, the bar and even the menu over the next several months, but Sawant said they want to keep the elements that made Scalo one of Albuquerque’s premier Italian restaurants.

“We are trying to bring it back for the city, so obviously we don’t want to do a completely different vision that doesn’t jibe with what people’s expectations are,” Sawant said.

Scalo closed last December, amid a slew of legal problems. Originally, the company declared the closure temporary, but the restaurant never reopened. The parent company, Esperanza Enterprises, filed for bankruptcy in March, a motion that was subsequently dismissed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Sawant said he and the rest of the new ownership group have taken on a portion of the outstanding debt accrued by the previous owners, but declined to comment further, as some issues remain tied up in court.

Prashant and Kristie Sawant have never owned or operated a restaurant before, so they enlisted the services of Chuck Parlapiano, who has worked in Albuquerque’s restaurant scene for decades, including at Scalo under restaurant founder Tom White. John Sedberry and Jeff Martinez with Sedberry & Associates helped broker the deal.

Parlapiano said the plan is to make the restaurant more cuisine-driven than it was under previous ownership, with a focus on local ingredients.

“We’re trying to build an Italian restaurant that could make it in San Francisco or New York,” Parlapiano said.

Kristie Sawant added that the restaurant will be influenced by their favorite dishes from all over Italy, and consequently the new owners plan to remove the reference to northern Italy from the restaurant’s name. The new restaurant will simply be known as “Scalo.”

Each of the principles agreed that they want the new restaurant to be elegant, with modern touches. Sawant said he wants the new bar to be more upscale than others on Nob Hill.

Sawant added that the owners may reach out to nearby residents and fans on social media to get their thoughts about what elements of the old Scalo, from favorite dishes to the Bloody Mary bar, should return in the new version. The group is in the process of trying to find a head chef.

The renovations are expected to take around three months, and the owners said they hope to have a soft opening for the revived restaurant sometime in January.

“Let’s just say we’d love to give Scalo back to Albuquerque for Valentine’s Day,” Parlapiano said.

 

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