By Valerie Vinyard
Soon, Midtown Tucsonans are going to have an Italian option when it comes to dining.
Locale, which means “local” or “place” in Italian, will open December 4.
Located in the former Old Pueblo Grille on Alvernon Way, the building has been revamped and remodeled. The inviting interior is bright and airy and oh-so-sprawling. The restaurant is divided into a few rooms, including a window-filled area that could welcome private diners.
“This is like a big old farmhouse,” says owner Deb Tenino. “We also have a lot of outdoor space, which we hope will make people feel comfortable.”
Featuring breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant will employ about 20 and will offer a combination of grab-and-go, restaurant and patio dining. The menu is a delectable blend of Italian classics made with a wide range of local products.
Locale’s appetizers and salads will cost $7 to $13; pastas will run about $14, with an option to upgrade some to family-size meals that feed three to four; pizzas will cost about $14; and entrees will range from a $16 eggplant parmesan to a bone-in ribeye for $32.
Fish dishes include a $22 cioppino and a $20 salmon. Roman-style, or square-shaped, pizzas also will be offered. The $8 desserts will include semifreddo, tiramisu and tartuffo. Locale will feature a full bar, including $5 to $12 glasses of wine.
“There’s something really special about Italian cooking,” Tenino says. “It’s so nice. We can use so many local ingredients. It will help bring the community together.”
Toward the end of December, Locale’s bakery will open with earlier hours. Tenino and fellow owner Nick Kreutz hired native Tucsonan and baker Lyndsey Garcia from a bakery in San Francisco. The bakery will offer teas, coffees and a variety of baked goods. Cappuccinos; baked goods; and heartier fare such as a caramelized onion, bacon and cheese tart, and savory polenta with sauteed greens and soft-boiled egg will be offered.
Indoor capacity will be 175—or 87 now—and about 60 outside. Locale’s patio will be dog friendly.
Tenino and Kreutz’s quest for a location began about a year ago. When the two considered the property for their second concept, Tucson’s culinary scene was thriving. The pair had planned for an April opening, but alas, the pandemic held things up.
“More than anything we want Locale to be the heart of its neighborhood—a place where people can meet, have coffee, pick up dinner after a busy day, enjoy a great meal with friends,” Kreutz says.
“We’re opening a neighborhood Italian restaurant that’s really for the community. The property has so many spaces that lend itself to so many functions.”
“We’re offering something affordable but high quality,” adds Tenino, noting they’ll be creating many of their pastas by hand.
There will be daily specials, such as buy one entrée, get a second one for $10 on Tuesdays; a burger and beer for $15 on Wednesdays; and any pizza for $10 on Thursdays.
The land on which the 8,000-square-foot restaurant sits spans about an acre. Two bocce ball courts, ample outdoor seating and lots of vegetation serve as an inviting backdrop. A metal bike rack made by Iron Horse Fabricators is available for residents to park their bicycles.
Tenino and Kreutz used to co-own Tavolino Ristorante when it was located North Oracle Road. They also helmed Latin American restaurant Contigo Latin Kitchen on River Road and Campbell Avenue in April 2010. Contigo moved to the former location of Janos and J Bar on the grounds of the Westin La Paloma in March 2016.
Kreutz, 38, has cooked at Keaton’s and for Hacienda del Sol in the past. He met Tenino years ago, and they’ve collaborated ever since.
“I miss the adrenaline of restaurants,” he says.
The restaurant was built in 1939 and first served as a summer house for Chicago resident Frank Lamar. The land spanned several acres and had an olive grove, vineyards and a fruit orchard. The building was added on to in later decades and boasts a mix of styles.
Over the years, the building was known as the Bottle Tree restaurant when it was next to a Doubletree Hotel; the Lunt Avenue Marble Club; Old Pueblo Grille; and for 10 short weeks, Abuela’s Cocina Mexicana.
“There are a lot of restaurants that have stood the test of time,” Kreutz says. “I hope that this place can become one of those restaurants that Tucson can be proud of.”