by DREW HOWARD
Out with the old (and undercooked chicken), in with the new: D’Marcos Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is set to replace Rojo Mexican Bistro in Downtown Rochester with an entirely new kitchen, decor and staff come 2018.
Restaurateurs Mike Thomas and business partner Mark Mendola took over the vacancy around Thanksgiving this year, and have been busy prepping D’Marcos for its 2018 opening ever since. Both Thomas and Mendola promise that D’Marcos will be starting fresh (both literally and figuratively) in almost every way.
“We’re taking our time as this is a significant million-plus investment,” Mendola said. “All new kitchen equipment is being brought in, and the entire restaurant is being refurbished. We’re putting in a million-plus dollars for our customers to give them the kind of experience they deserve.”
“We decided for the best end results that we’d start from scratch,” Thomas added. “Aside from the outdoor hood and staircase, everything else will be new and fresh.”
Architecture and design firm Ron and Roman, whose credits include Kruse and Muer and Clubhouse BFD, has been tapped to construct D’Marcos from the ground up.
“It’ll be a modern take on the classic look,” Thomas said. “There will be marble and a lot of warm colors, like caramel, browns and dark reds, that make a very warm but casual feel. It’ll be a nice neighborhood gathering place, more of a refined take on a classic look.”
The 6,900 square foot building will include 75 seats in the wine bar, 75 seats in dining, and another 50 seats in private dining. The wine bar is set to initially offer 24 wines by the glass and another 75 by the bottle with room to grow the selection over time.
The D’Marcos food menu will feature “classic Italian favorites,” fresh seafood, chops and salad entrees.
“There will be a small plates menu, classic Italian appetizers, and a menu for the bar area,” he said. “As for pricing, we consider ourselves a three to four times a month restaurant rather than a three-to-four times a year one. Come here for special occasions, but the experience is also something you’ll want to do several times a month.”
Since 1979, Thomas has worked his way up from busboy to certified executive chef and restaurant owner. Mendola is an Oakland University graduate with previous experience running the Huerto Restaurant and Tequila Bar in West Bloomfield Township.
While both have “restaurant owner” on their resumes, Mendola believes it’s his expertise in business and accounting that makes him and Thomas such a great pair.
“I think we’ll have a great time working together,” Mendola said. “We both have a flair for Italian and love the community and neighborhood here. The minute we found out this space was available we jumped at it with a lot of tenacity – we know it’s a fantastic community and spot, and hope to make the community proud.”
Rojo was shut down in June earlier this year after several cases of salmonella poisoning were traced back to the restaurant. The consumption of raw meats and eggs and contaminated dairy, fruits and vegetables can result in salmonella infection.
Thomas and Mendola clarify that they have no relationship with the Rojo managers, and plan to hire an entirely new waiting and kitchen staff.
D’Marcos Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar is set to open sometime near the end of January or beginning of February, though this is subject to change. The grand opening will be celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with members of the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce and local officials present.
You can learn more about D’Marcos by visiting dmarcositalian.com.