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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Damacios restaurant is looking to change things up in Downtown Albuquerque. Moving into the historic building on Eighth St. and Central Ave. formerly occupied by family-run Italian staple Villa di Capo, the business is looking to add another dimension to Downtown. The owners of Damacios are seeking to stand out among the abundance of nightclubs and bars in Downtown with a more upscale dining experience.

Damacios is the newest venture by Gerald Zamora and Bianca Johnston. Albuquerque natives Zamora and Johnston are both lifelong restauranteurs who have worked in some of the most successful restaurants in Las Vegas, Nevada, before returning to Albuquerque. The two currently own Cake Night Club near Fifth St. and Central Ave. and Club Rio on the Westside. Their enthusiasm for the industry and their expertise were on full display during an interview with The Paper. as they spoke about their plans for the space.

“What we’re doing now is to breathe a little bit more of a modern life feel into the space as far as what trends are going on in some other bigger cities, but still keep a lot of the same character that everyone is used to,” Zamora said. Both Zamora and Johnston have long admired the space Villa di Capo once occupied. “I’ve known this location. I’ve dreamed of running it for years. It’s just been one of the prime locations in Albuquerque,” Zamora said. 

They hope that with their experience in other larger markets, they can bring new ideas and a new experience for locals. They also hope to bring the space back to its former glory by using it in its entirety. The last few years that Villa di Capo was in that space, only certain areas were available to the customer, while many spaces such as the outdoor balcony were unused.

Damacios will also serve American-style tapas and feature a high-end steak house menu. “It’s going to be a little bit of everything,” Zamora said. Due to the price of the steak options, they will be in limited supply during the week. The menu will also feature brunch and lunch options.

The owners intend for Damacios to be much more than a restaurant. “It’s more about the experience. Do we want to offer quality food and drinks? Yes. But in all actuality, it’s going to be more about the experience and the ambiance,” Zamora noted. 

“It’s going to be not your typical Chili’s or Applebee’s environment where you have the music in the background real low. Music is going to be loud. You’re going to have to talk over it. We’re going to have DJs. We’re going to have other entertainment going on. We’re going to have special promotions too,” Zamora said about their plans to fully utilize the space that the building offers. “It’s going to be about taking the space and then involving people to have a fully immersive experience.”

Zamora and Johnston say they plan to announce a soft-opening for the public at the end of August or the beginning of September.

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