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Local pizza chain expands into Downtown

Aldo Venturino’s Downtown pizzeria is the newest addition to the local Venezia’s chain. (Roberto E. Rosales/ Albuquerque Journal.)

Aldo Venturino’s Downtown pizzeria is the newest addition to the local Venezia’s chain. (Roberto E. Rosales/ Albuquerque Journal.)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Does the red-and-green logo for that new Downtown pizza joint look a little familiar?

Wait until you see the menu.

Aldo’s New York Style Pizzeria is basically the newest location of the venerable Venezia’s, a small chain that originated in Rio Rancho 35 years ago.

That means you can get the same homemade lasagna and Pizza Bianca the Venezia’s kitchens have been dishing out for years.

“Same quality, same food as Venezia’s,” said Aldo’s owner Aldo Venturino. “Just the new name.”

The expansion and name change represent a subtle shift in the family-run restaurant business. Venezia’s founder Frank Montanile recently retired and sold his share to his nephews, Renato and Aldo Venturino. The brothers had been co-owners of Venezia’s for more than a decade; they joined Montanile in 2000 to revive the restaurant in Rio Rancho after its five-year hiatus.

As part of Montanile’s departure, the three existing Venezia’s will all have new names by this summer, but Aldo Venturino said it’s one of the few differences customers will notice.

Aldo’s opened about a week ago at 4th and Central, next to Maloney’s Tavern. It sells pizza by the slice (starting at $3) and by the pie. There are also heros, subs, calzones, salads and pastas.

The menu stayed true to the Venezia’s lineup, albeit with a few additions. That includes the new Alfredo pizza: chicken, green chile and mozzarella piled onto an Alfredo-sauce base.

“I call it Italy meets New Mexico,” said Venturino, a first-generation American whose parents hail from Rome.

He started working in the original Venezia’s when he was 16 years old.

Whole pizzas are available with regular, gluten-free, and the extra thick Sicilian-style crust.

Venturino even introduced a “party”-size version of the Sicilian — a 384-square-inch bready raft ready for any topping.

Customers can down their pizza and pasta inside Aldo’s, a 1,600-square-foot former pizzeria that Venturio spent more than $30,000 updating. Carry-out and delivery are also available.

The Nestlé Toll House Cafe has moved from ABQ Uptown to a new spot on Paseo del Norte NE, near Wyoming. Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

The Nestlé Toll House Cafe has moved from ABQ Uptown to a new spot on Paseo del Norte NE, near Wyoming. Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

The pizzeria is open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Aldo’s is located at 102 4th NW. The phone number is 243-2536.

Rebel swells

Pretty much since the day she opened Rebel Donut in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights, Carrie Mettling heard the cries from the other side of the river.

“Bring us your raised and glazed, your Red Chile Chocolate Bacon,” they said. Or something like that.

Well, the doughnut shop’s West Side fans have gotten their wish.

Mettling, her husband Jeff and their partner Nancy Lesicka opened a new Rebel Donut earlier this month at 9311 Coors NW.

Customers can now buy their lemon-iced, cinnamon-crumb and famous “Breaking Bad”-themed doughnuts near the bustling Coors/Paseo del Norte intersection. The new 2,000-square-foot Rebel Donut is located in the same shopping center as Ross and Target.

The original Rebel Donut opened just eight months ago at 2435 Wyoming NE, and Mettling said the expansion has happened faster than she expected. But Mettling pins the growth on demand and said that the shop’s concept has resonated with customers.

Rebel Donut has a menu of about 100 varieties that are available on a rotating basis and gets even more inventive for holidays.

“I think people just like something that’s different and fun,” said Mettling. “We’re pretty creative with our stuff. … I think we have a different approach to it than a traditional doughnut shop.”

Single doughnuts range in price from 98 cents to $1.89, and a dozen “classic” doughnuts runs about $11.

Rebel Donut’s West Side location is open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The phone number is 898-3090.

Cheddar’s chain coming to town

As I reported on my blog earlier this month, Cheddar’s Casual Café is opening a new location in Albuquerque.

A move to a slightly larger location means Nestlé Toll House Cafe owner Jennifer Carlson can have a freezer case for goodies like this ice cream sandwich cake. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

A move to a slightly larger location means Nestlé Toll House Cafe owner Jennifer Carlson can have a freezer case for goodies like this ice cream sandwich cake. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

The Irving, Texas-based casual dining chain will join the cluster of restaurants near the Century Rio 24 movie complex, bringing a diverse food lineup that includes sandwiches, burgers, steaks, salads and even shepherd’s pie.

Construction on the new 8,100-square-foot restaurant should begin next month on Pan American Freeway, on the lot formerly occupied by CU Auto Sales.

The new restaurant will seat about 330 people and employ about 150, said Joe Mutti, the company’s senior vice president of development. It should open in late August or early September.

Mutti said the chain had been eyeing the Albuquerque market for at least three years but held off until it could find a site with ample highway visibility.

With 130 restaurants in 23 states, Mutti said Cheddar’s has become known for its scratch-made food, prices that he said are typically lower than competitors’, and for an inviting atmosphere with lots of wood decor and a 400-gallon fish tank.

“You’re comfortable there in a suit and comfortable in shorts and flip-flops as well,” he said.

Follow the cookie-crumb trail …

…To the new location of the Nestlé Toll House Café. The locally owned franchise has left ABQ Uptown for a spot on Paseo del Norte near Wyoming.

The new space is slightly larger than the old one, owner Jennifer Carlson said, so there’s now enough room for a freezer case she can stock with cake-sized ice cream sandwiches.

Otherwise, though, you can expect to find the same fresh-baked bounty the café offered at ABQ Uptown. That means all kinds of cookies — chocolate chip, naturally, but also peanut butter, sugar and snickerdoodles — plus brownies, Dreyer’s ice cream and coffee.

Nestlé Toll House Café is located at 7441 Paseo del Norte NE, Suite C. The phone number is 830-2084.

Other tidbits:

♦ The local franchisee that operates Albuquerque’s two Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurants recently completed a $100,000 interior overhaul at the 10074 Coors NW location. The upgrades included new dining-room furniture, lighting, flooring and signage as well as a new service counter. Franchisee GLS Foods LLC plans to give its other Popeyes restaurant (at 4240 San Mateo NE) a similar update early next year.

♦ Tammy Montoya-Dupuy has opened Flower Girl in the Scottsdale Village Shopping Center. Customers will find fresh flowers and gifts — such as collectibles, glassware and photo frames — inside the 800-square-foot shop, Montoya-Dupuy said. Flower Girl also delivers and provides arrangements for special events. The address is 3107 Eubank NE, Suite 26. The phone number is 323-1550.

If you have any retail news to share, contact me at jdyer@abqjournal.com or 823-3864. You can get more frequent updates on shopping and dining news on my blog at abqjournal.com.

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