Amalour Reopens Tonight with New Menu, Team & Direction


May 20, 2016
a man wearing a hat
By Jackie Tran
By Jackie Tran

Sometimes, failure must occur before true success arrives.

This is no less true for restaurants than it is for any other business. At St. Philip’s Plaza, one location has seen a number of attempts. Liv Cafe & Bistro saw a short stint, followed by huge remodel that brought about Bodega Kitchen & Wine. Tonight, the space’s current tenant, Amalour Revival Lounge will reopen as Amalour Restaurant with a reimagined menu, reconfigured kitchen, and a new team at the helm.

At the forefront of this new team is Justin Fitzsimons, former manager at Scordato’s Pizzeria. Successful Tucson restaurants run in his family. His uncles, Joe Scordato and Daniel Scordato, both own restaurant – Guiseppe’s Ristorante Italiano is Joe’s, while Daniel owns Vivace and Scordato’s Pizzeria. Fitzsimons joined Amalour as an owner and chef, prioritizing growth in the kitchen since the quiet temporary closure on May 9.

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Although they’ve already taken advantage of the beautiful dining room and patio spaces to create a stylish environment, the kitchen didn’t stand out as much as Fitzsimons wanted. It has since been reconfigured to optimize service and quality, but they’re also working hard to maintain a dynamic dining experience to excite guests.

Since the space’s predecessors didn’t survive long, they’re pushing the limits in hopes they can thrive rather than survive.

“We’re looking to be one of the best restaurants in Tucson,” Fitzsimons said.

Spaghetti at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Spaghetti at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Fitzsimons went to culinary school in Florence, so his knowledge of Italian cuisine runs deep. During a recent visits to Amalour before the reopening, I witnessed one of the cooks bringing out a handful of freshly rolled pasta for Fitzsimons to examine, making sure it had the just the right amount of resilience and thickness for use as a staple recipe.

After living in Portland and Los Angeles, Japanese food became Fitzsimons’ personal favorite. Though you’ll see the house-made fresh pasta on Amalour’s modern American menu, Mediterranean and Asian influences make their way into the selection through various incarnations.

For lunch, you can have a certified Piedmontese beef burger with raclette cheese, crispy shallots, pickled red onion, and aioli on a challah bun. On the flip side, you can also order a banh mi sandwich with Vietnamese pork belly on a ciabatta bun.

Banh mi at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Banh mi at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

On the dinner menu, you’ll find house-made ravioli with truffle-mushroom filling, sautéed spinach, Japanese maitake mushroom, and parmigiano reggiano. There’s also the Hokkaido scallops with celery root puree, seared kale, crispy pancetta, kohlrabi, and brown butter balsamic gastrique.

“There’s still plenty of experimentation in the test kitchen,” Fitzsimons said. Their menu will continue to change based on seasonality and adapt to the clientele’s constantly changing tastes.

Cactus Wren cocktail at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Cactus Wren cocktail at Amalour Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The cocktail menu’s classic section was curated to a smaller size, while the contemporary cocktail selection will continue to update.

“We were looking for fresh, seasonal, exciting summer flavors,” said bar manager Tannie Anz-Meador. “Drinks will change throughout the summer based on what I find at the farmers market right here at St. Philip’s Plaza.”

For example, the Cactus Wren is their take on the Paloma, with smoky Alipus mezcal, habanero, grapefruit, lime, and a Tajín rim. Their “shrub of the moment” will change at least twice a month.

If alcohol’s not your thing, they’ll improvise with their fresh ingredients to tailor mocktails to your taste.

“Just let us know what you like and we’re happy to accommodate.” Anz-Meador said.

Since keeping things fresh is a priority, they also have a long list of local suppliers. You can see some of them in St. Philip’s Plaza from the gorgeous patio. The seats under the outdoor bar top are under ceiling fans, so you can catch a cool breeze for now.

Amalour reopens to the public for dinner Friday, May 20.

For more information, visit amalourlounge.com.

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Article By

Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...

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