350 Congress Project
Chef Antonio Nunez of Las Vegas, Nevada appeared at the Rio Nuevo meeting with a request to support approximately half of the renovation costs for his team to take over and operate the former Funky Monk, at the entrance to downtown. The new restaurant and lounge will be called 350 Congress and promises to bring some of Nunez’s signature dishes and cocktails to Tucson.
Spanning a 30-year career as a rising star with unique menus and artistic dishes, Chef Nunez has helped to launch some of the most iconic restaurants in Nevada and London. He currently owns and operates four popular and highly-rated restaurants in Las Vegas.
Chef Nunez was one of the original chefs at Le Cirque and then Executive Chef at Primo at age 24. He worked in the kitchens of Guy Savoy, STK, and Caesars Palace before starting his own restaurant. His business partner Scott Cummings was the season 12 winner of Hell’s Kitchen and then went on to work for Gordon Ramsay. He eventually became the Executive Chef at Ramsay’s Pub and Grill at Caesars Palace and most recently as the Executive Chef for Lake Las Vegas.
Their recognition in Nevada includes Best Brunch, Best Up and Coming Chef and Best New Restaurant, going up against every celebrity chef in the world.
The remodeled restaurant will replace the large bar with open seating and a sit down venue, converting to music after hours. “This will no longer be a college bar, with beer pong and dollar beers,” Nunez said as he described dishes like charred cactus bruschetta, lobster ceviche, egg shooters with caviar and a Kentucky fried Bahn Mi.
Rio Nuevo voted unanimously to provide a grant of $150,000 to help accelerate the renovation and welcomed Chef Nunez to Tucson.
Whole Slvce Pizza
One of Tucson’s own celebrity chefs also appeared seeking help to launch a New York style by the slice pizza joint at The Mercado. Ari Sarpiro, owner and developer of Falora and Beaut Burger is planning to open a small street pizza cafe specializing in pizza by the slice, on the ground floor of the new Monier Apartments recently opened in The Mercado.
Ari, a native New Yorker, thinks Tucson is ready for a grab-and-go pizza cafe like you would see on street corners in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The Rio Nuevo board committed $150,000 to accelerate the opening of Whole Slvce Pizza (the V is not a typo).
“Downtown Tucson’s food scene continues to grow and flourish,” said Fletcher McCusker, Rio Nuevo Chairman. “We are seeing international attention paid to our urban core from developers in Miami, Texas, Nevada, Chicago, California and Washington DC, side by side with our loyal Tucsonans who were early pioneers in the downtown Tucson food and music scene.”
Exterior view of the Monier Apartment complex, 160 South Avenida del Convento
Whole Slvce construction is ongoing at the Monier Apartment complex
In other action, the Board authorized counsel to finalize the $2.8M contract with KLA Labs to install high speed internet and digital video throughout the 27 acre Tucson Convention Center (TCC) campus. Rio Nuevo has also authorized KLA to solicit branding partners for any and all parts of the TCC so that naming rights revenue more than offsets the wireless installation costs.
200 E. Congress
Finally, the board approved a $100,000 renovation investment into the former Crescent Smoke Shop to help solicit a new tenant to a very important corner in downtown.