Extensive renovations are underway inside a onetime Outback Steakhouse to transform it into a family-owned Italian restaurant called Rustica.
The family also owns The Ranch House, which is across the street on Santa Fe’s south side.
As soon as married couple Josh Baum and Ann Gordon heard in 2017 that Outback would be leaving the building at 2574 Camino Entrada Road for a new space near Santa Fe Place mall, they knew they wanted to open another restaurant there — even if they will be competing against themselves.
Baum anticipates opening Rustica some time around March.
It will offer pasta made in-house, pizza, salads and classic Italian entrees.
“We’re probably going to be half the price of other places that make their own pasta,” Baum said. “Instead of $25 to $30 pasta, it’s going to be $12 to $14.”
Baum and Gordon opened The Ranch House in 2011 after initially starting with Josh’s BBQ on Zafarano Drive in 2005.
They have watched the south side grow for nearly 15 years and believe enough people live in that part of town that two local restaurants can thrive across the street from one another.
“We’re going to get a lot of chains out here,” Baum said. “Being local will help set us apart. We have a lot of great families and a great diversity of people.”
Baum and Gordon seek to renovate the Outback building in a way that strips any sense of the former chain restaurant from the building. They are adding an outdoor patio plus space to the front of the building. They also will create a partial display kitchen so diners can get a sense of what’s cooking.
Rustica will seat about 163 inside and 40 outside, similar to the 160 interior seats and 50 patio seats at The Ranch House.