Choosing to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic may seem like madness to those in the service industry.
But to seasoned restaurateurs like Deb Tenino and Nick Kreutz—who opened Foothills eatery Contigo Latin Kitchen during the Great Recession and persevered—there's always a silver lining to challenging times.
"I opened Contigo in the middle of a recession and everybody told me not to do it," Tenino said. "That was 10 years ago."
While both Tenino and Kreutz are still dedicated to Contigo at La Paloma Resort, the business partners noticed something was missing from the Broadway Boulevard and Alvernon Way area—a classic Italian restaurant and bakery.
Locale, housed in the former Old Pueblo Grille building, opens to the public on Friday, Dec. 4.
Tenino said she has had her eye on the location for a long time and spent almost two years developing the concept with Kreutz. Most of all, she wanted to get back to her roots of Italian food—Tenino helped open Tavolino's Ristorante in the Foothills and was a partner in the restaurant until she sold her interest to open Contigo.
"I always wanted to get back into doing Italian food and that space has a nice big patio," Tenino said. "There isn't a family-run Italian restaurant in the neighborhood and there hasn't been for a long time. I think the concept fits the space and it's kind of missing from the neighborhood."
The 8,000-square-foot space will feature a full-service scratch kitchen run by Chef Emmanuel Corona, along with a bakery/cafe for grab-and-go items and baked goods made fresh by San Francisco baker Linsey Garcia.
The restaurateurs revamped the interior in the style of a Masseria—a historic Italian farmhouse—with a modern vibe.
"We felt it was time to breathe new life into the space," Tenino said. "We wanted the restaurant to evolve in a contemporary way to celebrate the juxtaposition of its life as an older home and add a new layer to its history."
Locale has plenty of outdoor seating under the shade of 100-year-old trees that are perfect for enjoying a meal with friends while social distancing. With help from Spadefoot Nurseries, Mesquite Valley Growers, Green Things, Turf Yards and Furniture in the Raw, Tenino and Kreutz restored the main patio to incorporate a bar and Bocce courts.
"When we were first looking at the property a lot of people asked us what we were going to do with all the outdoor space," Tenino said. "Now after seeing what we've done, people ask, 'When can we sit out there?'"
Kreutz said while there's definite concerns to pursuing this gastronomic venture during a pandemic, he believes they've taken the right steps to make Locale a success.
"It's easy to say it's a little worrisome, but we're doing everything in our power to hedge our bets," Kreutz said. "We're making the most calculated decisions we can and hoping for the best."
Both Tenino and Kreutz used every ounce of their culinary experience to develop Locale's exquisite menu, which features classic dishes like eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, seven-layer lasagna and Pizza A Taglio (a thin crust pizza)—all made daily with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. There's also plenty of Italian seafood dishes on the menu like Cioppino (shrimp, mussels, clams in fish tomato broth), Spiedino (fresh tuna, peppers, crispy polenta sticks and citrus balsamic chicken) and grilled salmon to give the Old Pueblo a taste of the old county. They even use fruit from the trees in the patio for their pomegranate sorbet.
"More than anything we want Locale to be the heart of this neighborhood," Kreutz said. "A place where people can meet, have coffee, pick up dinner after a busy day, enjoy a great meal with friends."