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New Restaurant Replacing Mexi’s Will Feature a Wood-Fired Oven, Small Brewery

Vedhas Deshmukh will be the new chef at RustiCo. Image: submitted.

FREDERICTON – A new restaurant called RustiCo., featuring cooking from a wood-fired oven and a small brewery, will open soon in the former location of Mexicali Rosa’s, co-owner Mike Babineau announced today.

Babineau said it was important to him that the restaurant that replaced Mexis add something new to the mix in the city centre.

“We didn’t want to take away from what the great restaurants in downtown Fredericton were already doing, but to add to it – bring something new to the downtown,” said Babineau in an interview with Huddle.

RustiCo.’s chef will be Vedhas Deshmukh, who is originally from India and moved to Canada six years ago.

Deshmukh cooked and helped develop menus at popular restaurants in Halifax like Chives Canadian Bistro and 2 Doors Down. He then moved to Toronto and worked at The Carbon Bar, Patria and most recently helped open the Peruvian restaurant Mira in downtown Toronto.

Babineau says they met Deshmukh at a trade show in Toronto, and over coffee learned that they shared common ideas about food and the concept of the restaurant. Deshmukh flew to Fredericton for a visit in late March before taking the job.

“I had been on the East Coast,” said Deshmukh. “I had worked in Halifax for a while and loved living here and working here.”

Most importantly, says Babineau, Deshmukh picked up on their sarcastic sense of humour. “That was probably one of the best things about our first interactions with him,” joked Babineau. “He got our humour. If you don’t have humour in this business, you’re never going to make it.”

RustiCo. will feature a brand new Marra Forni Neapolitan Brick Oven, and popular Neapolitan style pizza with ingredients imported from Italy will be one of the main staples of the menu.

People commonly associate pizzas with wood-fired ovens, but Deshmukh says the menu will be broad and he will use it to make Mediterranean-style dishes and food from other culinary traditions.

“The wood-fired pizza will make a small part of the menu,” said Deshmukh. “I want to use that oven for as many things as I can.”

Babineau purchased Mexicali Rosa’s late last fall with his business partner Gabby Elzayat. They decided to close after determining the cost of renovations and rebranding would be too high, and they would be better off opening a new restaurant.

RELATED: Mexicali Rosa’s Is Closing and a New Restaurant Opening in its Place

Babineau and Elzayat currently own two other places together as well – Cora Breakfast and Lunch downtown and Cannon’s Cross Pub on the north side.

After they decided to open a new restaurant to replace Mexis, they approached friends and experienced restauranteurs Krista Neves and Kyle Lennie of The Snooty Fox and the Monks and Jonesie food truck, and Frank Neves, formerly of Cannon’s Cross Pub, to partner with and bring this new concept to life.

The name – a mash of the words “rustic” and “company” – is evocative of the atmosphere they’re trying to create in the new restaurant, says Babineau.

“It has the rustic feeling with the pizza oven. It has the rustic feeling with the decor on the inside,” he said.

RustiCo. will seat 150 people on the inside and an additional 100 when the patio is in use in warmer weather.

“We anticipate a big summer,” said Babineau. “That patio is amazing. It’s one of the best in the city. We’ll also use the architecture of that building to our advantage, where it gets sun all day.”

The brewery will still be under construction after the restaurant opens. When it opens it will make several beers that will be served in the restaurant and sold in growlers and crowlers.

“You’ll be able to watch [the brewery] being built while the restaurant is open because the wall between the restaurant and the brewery is all glass,” said Babineau. “You’ll be able to see the guys putting the brewery together.”

Babineau says they plan to open the restaurant in June and the brewery in the late summer or early fall.

They’ll be hiring up to 50 people to staff the restaurant in the next few weeks.