ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Growing up, Andres Rosales had a job busing tables at La Hacienda restaurant in Old Town.
He was still a kid but already thinking of what he might do differently if the place were his.
Now it is.
When La Hacienda closed its doors this year, Rosales found his opening.
He and partner David Rosales signed a lease for the space and launched their own place, Hacienda del Rio, last month.
Rosales redecorated the 3,100-square-foot restaurant — located within the old Herman Blueher mansion — and created what he considers a focused, manageable menu.
“We want to be good at one thing, which is New Mexican food,” Rosales said.
Opening an Old Town restaurant in a familiar space was an opportunity the serial entrepreneur couldn’t pass up. The partners already have multiple corporations, and their business interests range from law to transportation.
Andres’ background in the food and beverage industry inspired them to enter the restaurant realm. In fact, the partners and their operations manager, Marie Trujillo, are already looking for additional restaurant opportunities in the vicinity.
“I like projects,” Andres Rosales said. “I like a challenge.”
The partners wasted little time getting their new restaurant going. Within weeks of signing a lease for the space — brokered by Marguerite Haverly and Brent Tiano of Colliers International — Hacienda del Rio had opened.
And it’s not just the name that they changed.
Rosales said he replaced a look he described as “Cinco de Mayo” with a more subdued aesthetic.
Interior walls that were once bright shades of blue and yellow have been redone in an adobe-hued paint. Punched-metal shades cover light fixtures and black-and-blue cloths drape over the tables.
“I was going for something simple, elegant and New Mexican,” he said.
Hacienda del Rio’s menu takes up just three pages and is filled with New Mexican food staples.
Traditional plates include rolled enchiladas, chile rellenos, and huevos rancheros. They come with rice, beans and a sopaipilla and run $9-$14. There’s also an green-chile and guacamole-topped “Old Town Burger” ($10) and the chile-smothered “Grande Steak Ranchero.” ($13) For the heat-averse, there’s also a small selection of sandwiches and salads.
As for margaritas? The restaurant is still working on its liquor license, but the owners expect to have it by month’s end.
Rosales, a native New Mexican, is hopeful that his new vision for the space will help woo more locals to Old Town.
“We don’t want to have up time and down time,” he said. “We want to be busy all the time.”
Hacienda del Rio is located at 302 San Felipe NW. The phone number is 243-3131.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
What happened to La Hacienda?
It’s been an interesting few months for local restaurateur Ted Garcia, who closed La Hacienda in Old Town after about 30 years of ownership and also shuttered his newly opened La Hacienda Restaurant & Sports Cantina.
Garcia said he plans to keep the La Hacienda brand alive at one of his other Old Town eateries. His Casa de Fiesta Mexican Grill at 2004 S. Plaza NW will soon become Original Hacienda of Old Town.
The future is slightly less certain for the sports cantina, which opened just a few months ago at the bustling intersection of San Mateo and Montgomery NE.
Garcia said he’s hopeful that he can revive that enterprise as well, although he said the concept needs refining and that he’d have to pare down his extensive menu to continue.
“I didn’t want to go any further the way things were because I wasn’t happy,” he said.
Farina fans out
Getting Farina food no longer requires a trip Downtown.
Owners have parlayed the success of the popular artisan pizzeria in East Downtown into a second location. Farina Alto Pizzeria & Wine Bar opened in late April at 10721 Montgomery NE, just west of Juan Tabo.
“(We) thought that there was a part of the city that basically we weren’t reaching because of the location Downtown,” said co-owner Terry Keene.
When it comes to dinner, he added, people don’t often drive Downtown for pizza “so we thought we’d bring the mountain to Muhammad.”
Terry and his wife Pat — also owners of Artichoke Café — teamed with their son, Evan, and partners Sean Holler, Cory Gray and Katie Carpenter to open the new location.
At 6,000 square feet, the second restaurant is roughly three times the size of the original. The owners were creative with the extra space, which formerly was home to Pacific Rim and Minato.
Two windowed rooms on the north side of the dining room show off Farina’s wine selection and the cured meats and oils that will later move to the kitchen. Keene likens it to a “little delicatessen storefront.”
Out on the patio, they replaced a Koi pond with a garden to grow tomatoes and herbs.
The menu doesn’t stray far from the original Farina. It includes the same pizzas — such as the bestselling Margherita ($10) and its simple array of tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil — each built on handmade dough and oven-baked at temperatures up to 800 degrees.
But the restaurant’s size has given staff more room to work, meaning the Heights menu has a few items not currently available Downtown, Keene said. That includes a housemade ravioli ($15) and eggplant parmesan.
Farina is open daily. The phone number is 298-0035.
Nob Hill changes
♦ The A Store is moving to a new spot within the Nob Hill Shopping Center. The venerable furniture and home decor store is leaving its high-profile storefront at the Central/Carlisle intersection for a smaller location on the center’s Amherst Drive side.
“This is just too much space for us,” employee Josh Viets said of the current location.
Viets said the store should be in its new space by June.
♦ After 2 1/2 years in business, Desert Fish has closed. Owners of the Nob Hill seafood restaurant did not respond to phone messages but the closure was announced on the Desert Fish Facebook page.
“Thank you to everyone for your support,” the post said, noting that fans could join an email list for “updates about future endeavors.”
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