A large part of M’tucci’s success is the man who created the menus, organized the kitchens, and built the kitchen staff, Executive Chef and founding partner, John Haas. One of his guiding principles says it all.
“I have always found inspiration in the past, instead of in the future. Some people chase trends, but I’ve always been inspired by the things you can connect to and it’s hard to connect to a trend.”
John has been involved in restaurants for more than 20 years, beginning at a family friend’s Ames, Iowa sports bar as a dishwasher at the age of 15. While in college in Iowa City, he trained with chefs who had worked in famous kitchens in New Orleans and San Diego, absorbing techniques and a passion for cooking great food.
He really launched his career in Des Moines, where he was cooking in a Mediterranean restaurant, which featured some Italian dishes, and he had the chance to spend time in the kitchen with an Italian chef from the Veneto who came to the U.S. as part of a sister city cooking program.
“For a week of 15-hour days, I cooked alongside this guy who had been in the chef Olympics and who didn’t speak English, but I learned a lot. It was a game changer, a pivotal moment in my career when I was introduced to the passion and technique in Italian food,” he said.
“I ended up as head chef at the young age of 25 in a high-end restaurant, doing some cool stuff, like expensive wine dinners. But my drive was so strong to excel that after a year and a half of 90-to-100 hour work weeks, I burned out.”
He left thinking he wouldn’t work in restaurants again.
After a few months away, Bravo (a national Italian restaurant chain) contacted him about a job and his first thought was no. Going from high-end dining to a corporate setting didn’t seem like a step up. Before giving up on the restaurant business completely, he thought about all the positive things he could learn in a corporate setting and decided to give it a try.
“While I was with Bravo, I really learned how to run a restaurant, about the financial side, the systems, ordering, inventory and I discovered it was something that I loved and it reinvigorated me,” he said. “We had rules about what we could order and those rules didn’t allow for a lot of creativity, which was good, because it taught me how to think about ingredients differently. Instead of being able to rely on expensive ingredients like Iberíco pork, I now had to learn how to respect everyday ingredients and how to work with them. It gave a lot of discipline to my cooking. It was instrumental in my development process.”
He moved to Albuquerque to take over as Executive Chef at Bravo and after three years of turning the restaurant around, he started itching for a challenge. He saw an ad on Craigslist, “Looking for a Chef” and replied. He heard from M’tucci’s founders Jeff Spiegel and Katie Gardner and learned they were not only looking for a chef, but were looking for a location, as well. John was a little more interested in jobs at established restaurants, and didn’t really pursue the connection.
He continued interviewing. One restaurant told him they couldn’t meet his salary requirements, and later that day he heard from Jeff who asked if he was still interested and who asked if they could meet. They lunched on tacos at what was then Los Altos Ranch Market, now El Super grocery.
“I was tired of interviewing, but I was interested in the tacos,” he said. “I had always heard about the place and wanted to check it out.”
As it turns out, he and Jeff discovered they had a lot in common and they agreed to continue their conversations over the next few weeks. Jeff recently recalled his meetings with John Haas.
“When Katie and I decided to reprise our restaurant experience in NM after 23 years in the restaurant business in NYC, I knew I wanted a chef partner,” Jeff said.
“As has always been our practice, I invited the top three candidates to join me at our home to cook. At the end of those three days, and after countless hours of conversations with John, I pulled the trigger, hired him, and told him that he’d be a partner when the time was right to do the documents. It was the best partner decision I ever made. John cares about others, is a forgiving perfectionist and an excellent leader.”
“When I told Jeff if I wouldn’t have been a chef, I would have been an accountant, I think he thought, ‘I’ve found my chef’”, John said.
In the time leading up to finding a location, they had discussions about the character of M’tucci’s. Would it be fine dining with white tablecloths? From day one, they decided that was not the kind of restaurant they would open.
“I think people want value and interesting ingredients. Our whole thing was big flavor, being non-pretentious, very approachable and to let the food speak for itself. We wanted the type of place where people could eat a couple of times of week, instead of only for special occasions.”
After six years and with four M’tucci’s locations operating, what motivates John to continue to work long hours?
“I feel like I’ve been given a gift. Jeff gave me a chance and invested in me, and there is not a day that I don’t try to repay that gift. Part of (repaying that gift) is creating opportunities for other people, to give them the chance to grow and to prove how good they can be,” he replied.
NEWS FROM M’TUCCI’S
M’tucci’s @ Lava Rock Brewing Co.
HAPPY HOUR & NFL Football!
Lucky 7 Happy Hour features The Burger, a 10” Margherita or Pepperoni Green Chile Pizza, Charcuterie Boards and Wings for $7, Monday - Friday 3:00 - 6:30. Pair the food with a beer for $10.50 or $11, depending on the beer. Not eating (why not?), then $1 off all pints. The NFL is up and running and you can catch your favorite team on one of our large five screens.
HAPPY HOUR EVERY MONDAY UNTIL THE END OF THE FIRST HALF OF MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!
Saturday, September 7: Beer Lover’s Day
Wednesday, September 18: Cheeseburger Day (stay tuned for specials)
Thanks to all our fans who voted our Servers the Best of Rio Rancho.
Pan Seared Fish- The Fresh Fish of the Day is a swordfish with a mildly sweet flavor and a moist meaty texture. It is served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Marinated Italian Artichokes, and Sautéed Arugula in a bed of Lemon Butter topped with Capers.
Cut of The Day - The house cut is a 24oz bone-in NY-Strip served with house Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, and an Italian style Salsa Verde Sauce.
Braised Special - 20oz Bone-in Lamb Shank braised in a White Wine Sauce with Fresh Celery, White onions, Ripe San Marzano Tomatoes with hint of cinnamon and nutmeg spice. Served with Creamy Polenta and Sautéed Baby Spinach.
Please ask about our available wine pairings!
8:30 Friday 9/6: Leah Leyva Live in the bar
7:00 Thursday, 9/12: Javier Ortega Live in the bar
Cut of the Day - Bone-in NY strip, Salt Water Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Grilled Lemon Balsamic Reduction
Pan Seared Seafood - Sea Scallops, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Marinated Artichokes, Sautéed Arugula with Capers in Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce
Braised - Napoleon-Creamy Garlic Polenta, Five Pork Bolognese Marinara, Sautéed Spinach
Ravioli - Duck Ricotta Ravioli in a Mushroom Thyme Brodo, Caramelized Onion, Local Roasted Gray Farm Oyster Mushrooms, Shaved Parmesan & Arugula
SHAMROCK FOODS FIRED UP! CHEF CHALLENGE
M’tucci’s Italian Sous Chef Damian Lucero took on chefs from Santa Fe and El Paso in a cooking competition in Albuquerque yesterday. Each chef was given the same basket of ingredients and given 30 minutes to create a dish for three local chef-judges. The Challenge was moderated by Celebrity Chef Antonia Lofaso at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Damian was assisted by M’’tucci’s Italian Cafe & Market Chef/Partner Shawn Cronin. Our guys cooked an amazing red snapper, but came up short for the win.
Don’t miss our Weekend Brunch with Italian favorites and new takes on brunch items. Then try to choose from one of our 7 special brunch cocktails, shown below. Or bring a crowd and try all 7!
M’tucci’s Italian Café & Market
Voted Albuquerque’s Best Deli by the Albuquerque Journal’s Readers.
The Café & Market continues to offer amazing pastries in our display case every day. 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.
MARCH OF DIMES FUNDRAISER
Chef/Partner Cory Gray and Pastry Chef Lauren Bell were part of our team at the 6th Annual March of Dimes Signature Chef Auction last night at Las Puertas. Guests sampled dishes created by 12 different local businesses. M’tucci’s donated the food for the event, in addition to providing bar service with Trey and Randall and Austin Leard on hand to pour Prosecco for the VIP tables. M’tucci’s will donate the food and our time for a private 5-course private dinner. The entire amount of our team’s winning bid of $1,700 will go to the March of Dimes.
Give us a call for your next event, wedding reception or party! Click here to see our catering menu. 505.350.0019 or firstname.lastname@example.org
M’TUCCI’S AROUND TOWN
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.
SERVICE INDUSTRY NIGHT & DISCOUNTS
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.
MTUCCI’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Videos about making cocktails and pasta and getting to know the M’tucci’s culture. Click here
See you next Friday - Ciao!