M'tucci's Profiles - Jeff Spiegel & Katie Gardner

After nearly seven years as a health care consultant in Manhattan, Jeff Spiegel had an epiphany.

“At some point I got a glimpse of myself as a consultant walking down Madison Avenue with my overcoat and my briefcase in hand . . . and I took a start and thought holy s**t, that’s me. It’s not what I had in mind. I turned around and went home and called my brother (his business partner) and said I’m done.”

That epiphany in 1982 put Jeff and Katie Gardner, his wife and partner, on the path that would eventually lead to Albuquerque and to M’tucci’s. A friend suggested they start a restaurant in NYC, because “we like to cook”, (usually a terrible reason for getting into the restaurant business). So, Jeff said sure, sounds like a good idea.

While planning for a year, walking Manhattan to understand the restaurant business, good locations and commercial properties, they met the CEO of a public company that owned restaurants. They talked about doing a project together. While the deal didn’t happen, the CEO became an amazing mentor, guiding them to their initial restaurant space, providing the tools to get started, and even lent them a bookkeeper.

In 1983 they opened Margaritas on the Upper East Side, serving the city’s first Mexican food that wasn’t “garbage.” They held a cooking competition for prospective chefs and hired Christine Keff (who went on to win a James Beard award for her Seattle restaurant, Flying Fish) who had never cooked Mexican food. They both agreed that her food was fabulous.

Katie said they didn’t advertise, but they had the great idea of giving away margaritas for the first three nights and, of course, they were packed. Jeff said every restaurant they have ever opened since has always been packed. More restaurants followed, because as Katie says, “Jeff likes to start things. He likes the whole process of planning.”


After 23 years of operating 11 restaurants in Manhattan, they decided it was time for a change, so they sold their restaurants and moved back to Albuquerque, Jeff’s hometown, and worked on different projects and jobs until 2013. They said that they didn’t go out to restaurants that much, but when they did, the service was uniformly cold and impersonal. Jeff was working as a consultant on economic development and realized that he could create 60 jobs just by opening a restaurant. That’s economic development!

“We knew exactly what we wanted to do,” Jeff said. As with all of their previous places, at M’tucci’s Italian they surrounded themselves with good people. “We’ve always had good people.”

Dave Herndon, a magazine editor and a former bartender at Margaritas said, “The real secret sauce has always been that they create a hospitable, loose, fun atmosphere where people can be themselves and feel at home. The vibe starts with Jeff and Katie’s fun loving personalities, which informs their staffing—They have highly tuned people instincts. They pick the right people, and the wrong ones get weeded out really fast. Customers are treated as friends and become regulars. Everybody wins.”

During the regular meetings of servers and bartenders, standards of service are discussed at length. The level of professionalism is emphasized repeatedly. Much of the M’tucci’s staff has been with us since the doors opened. Katie said that’s because Jeff believes that employees deserve to earn a living wage and that they and John Haas (Founding Partner/Executive Chef) believe in training and promoting talented staff. Several of our original cooks, servers and bartenders are now in management positions.

“I always prefer having the restaurant built out. Sometimes, it’s in a location that may not have appeared to be favorable. Anywhere I have opened in a location where the previous restaurant failed and ours has always been successful. Thanks to you - our guest.”


M’tucci’s @ Lava Rock Brewing Co.

M’tucci’s kitchen is winding up their first month at Lava Rock Brewing Co. The brewers have been busy and have filled up 13 taps with their ales and lagers. Chef Fred has created a menu to complement the beers made by Ram Khalsa. Click here to see the menu, a map of the location, and the hours.

Wednesday, August 21 @ 7:00: Special Six Course Beer (5 oz.) and Food Pairing:

  1. Gila Gose shrimp & Crab Ceviche

2. Shiprock Saison & Honey Balsamic Chicken Wing

3. Petroglyph Wit & Watermelon with Feta, Basil

4. Brown Trout Lager Dunkle & Sausage Orzo Ragu

5. 32 Bravo DIPA & BBQ Meat Balls, Arugula, Apple Mustard

6. Capulin Pale Ale & Chocolate Cherry Tart Hazelnut Cookie Crust

$24 with beer - Reservations recommended - $6 deposit

Tonight, August 16 @ 7:00: Live Music with H28

Visit Lava Rock at 2220 Unser Blvd (about a mile north of I-40). Call (505) 836-1022 for details. Their website is: http://lavarockbrewpub.com/

Check out the site and follow them on Facebook: @LavaRockBC and Instagram: @Lavarockbc


M’tucci’s Italian

Weekend Specials

House Ravioli

Local Roasted Bell Pepper-Three Cheese Ravioli, Spicy House Bacon, Roasted Summer Squash, Caramelized Onion, White Wine Butter Sauce.

The Braise

Porcini Braised Duroc Pork Shank, Creamy Polenta, Sautéed Spinach, Local Porcini, Red Wine Braising Sauce.

Cut of the Day

24oz T-Bone, Salt-Water Smashed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Grilled Lemon, Balsamic Reduction.

Pan Seared Fish

Opah, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Artichoke Heart, Sautéed Arugula, Lemon Butter Caper Sauce.

Lapostolle Canto de Apalta Red Blend 2012

Glass 8 – Bottle 30

Michael David Freakshow Cabernet 2015

Glass 9 – Bottle 36

Weekend Brunch: 11:00 - 3:00

New menu for drinks and food. Click here.



1st Course- Heirloom Tomato, Smoked Portabella, Aged Balsamic, Creamy House Mozzarella, Toasted Sunflower Seeds 

2nd Course- Chianina Italian Cut Sirloin, Crispy Sea Water Potatoes, Marinated Red Bell Peppers, Colonata Style Butter

3rd Course- Cheesecake Bars, Strawberry Shrub Smetana, Fresh Fruit


1st Course- Creamy Smoked Corn Chowder, Green Chile, Smoked House Bacon

2nd Course- Smoked BBQ Game Hen, Watermelon BBQ Sauce, Jalapeño Cornbread, House Slaw

3rd Course- Flourless Chocolate Cake, Coffee Ganache, Orange Coulis, Crispy Semolina

M’tucci’s Italian Café & Market

The new Café & Market continues to wow our guests, primarily because of the amazing pastries in our display case every day. Our new hours are 8:00am - 6:00pm. We carry the same great Italian imports, all of our artisan breads, and a wide variety of imported, domestic, and house made cheese and meat. There is an expanded selection of coffee and pastries. We’ll still have charcuterie boards to eat in or take out with wine and beer by the glass. Click here to see our new menu.

Sarah with some of her beautiful baguettes, fresh daily!

Sarah with some of her beautiful baguettes, fresh daily!

M’tucci’s Moderno

Weekend Specials

Shrimp and Lobster Risotto - Wild Mushrooms, Asparagus, Grape tomatoes - $26

Rufino Rose, Italy, Notes of strawberry and hints of rose petal, white fruits and berries compliment the acidity and bubbles $8/32

Yellow Tail - Buttery soft with a lite sear - $23

Michael David, Sauv Blanc, California, Refreshing notes of crisp apple, honeysuckle and orange blossum, bright and slightly acidic. $9/36

Cut of the Day: 24 oz Porterhouse - $34

Tercos, Malbec, Argentine - Earthy, Berries and plum flavors, soft tanins with a long finish $8/32

Lemonade: Ginger Peach--Gelato: Tiramisu-- Sorbetto Peach Champagne

Tonight, August 16 @ 8:30: Amy Cliser Live

M’tucci’s Catering

Here are a few photos from the Make A Wish foundation fundraiser. Give us a call for your next event, wedding reception or party! Click here to see our catering menu. 505.350.0019 or catering@mtuccis.com



Our market items can be purchased at a couple of locations in Albuquerque. We deliver our fresh bread every Tuesday and Friday to Silver Street Market at 2nd and Silver. Choose from Sourdough, Fennel Rye, Wheat, Baguette, Ciabatta, and Raisin Rosemary Focaccia.

Drinking at Bosque in Nob Hill? You can order a M’tucci’s Charcuterie Board while there.


Area service industry workers can get a Service Industry card from us by showing proof of employment. With the card you receive 10% off your check every day and 20% off on Sundays from 6:00 - 9:00. Dine in only.


Our food is available for delivery with Door Dash or for pick up. Pick up something for the weekend or on your way home from work. The links to ordering are on the Home page.


Videos about making cocktails and pasta and getting to know the M’tucci’s culture. Click here

See you next Friday - Ciao!