Cafe away

Pop­u­lar Ital­ian buf­fet re­lo­cat­ing, plans to re­open in Septem­ber

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEVE SINOVIC JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Tomato Cafe will re­lo­cate af­ter los­ing its lease

Tomato Cafe, which will close later this month af­ter los­ing its lease in a re­tail cen­ter just off Paseo del Norte and San Pe­dro NE, will re­open this fall at a new lo­ca­tion.

Owner Deb­o­rah Gagnon said she plans to restart the home­grown restau­rant in Septem­ber at a site “very close” to the cur­rent eatery af­ter fi­nal­iz­ing lease terms with the new land­lord. “I hope to have news to share in the next few days.”

An­other ten­ant is slated to back­fill the restau­rant’s 3,300-square-foot space at 5920 Holly NE, Gagnon said. The restau­rant has been at the site since 2010.

“I’ve been told it’s a na­tional restau­rant chain,” said Gagnon, who re­ferred com­ment about the name of the new ten­ant to the owner’s com­mer­cial real es­tate bro­ker. The Jour­nal was un­able to reach Pe­ga­sus Group, the firm han­dling leas­ing at the site.

Gagnon, who had been try­ing to rene­go­ti­ate the lease with the cur­rent owner, will close Tomato Cafe on May 29. Fol­low­ing ten­ant im­prove­ments, she plans to re­open at a space that pro­vides higher vis­i­bil­ity and eas­ier ac­cess than the cur­rent all-you-can-eat Ital­ianstyle buf­fet eatery. “I’m try­ing to make le­mon­ade out of lemons,” said Gagnon, who ex­pects her 20 em­ploy­ees “will re­join Team Tomato” in Septem­ber.

Gagnon opened the Al­bu­querque restau­rant 25 years ago when she took over the for­mer Mama Lena’s at Juan Tabo and In­dian School NE. A year later, she moved to North Towne Plaza at Academy and Wy­oming NE, where the restau­rant was a fix­ture for 15 years. Now she’s on the move again. Serv­ing up fresh-out-of the-oven thin-crust pizza, sal­ads and pasta, roasted tomato basil soup, and, of course, the fa­mous sauteed gar­lic green beans, Gagnon’s menu has at­tracted a loyal fol­low­ing over the years.

“Kids and adults alike go crazy for the meat­balls,” she said. There’s also a soft-serve ice cream ma­chine, the ul­ti­mate sign of a fam­ily friendly buf­fet. Lunch goes for $9.99, and the din­ner tab is $10.99. “Fresh and con­sis­tent” is Gagnon’s credo. “That’s what our cus­tomers ex­pect.”

Those cus­tomers can be as­sured, how­ever, that the essence of Tomato Cafe will re­main.

“We’re go­ing to be the same Tomato Cafe,” Gagnon said. The menu will move with the restau­rant, and Gagnon is com­mit­ted to the style she and the eatery’s cooks have cre­ated over the years. “We’re not go­ing to change what we are.”

COUR­TESY OF EN­CHANTED MAR­KET­ING

Tomato Cafe, a pop­u­lar fam­ily-friendly, all-you-can-eat Ital­ian buf­fet, has lost its lease on its cur­rent lo­ca­tion off Paseo del Norte and San Pe­dro NE. It will close later this month, re­lo­cat­ing to a nearby site where it will re­open this fall..

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