N.M.'s first I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant plans July 13 grand opening

Farmington location is first of three Kyle and Autumn Santangelo have planned

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The restaurant is located at 4903 E. Main St., Unit B in Farmington.
  • It will operate from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
  • The first 10 paying customers for the July 13 grand opening of I Heart Mac and Cheese will receive a punch card that allows them to receive a free basic mac-and-cheese bowl once a week for a year.

FARMINGTON − While Farmington residents Kyle and Autumn Santangelo have never operated a restaurant before, they say they spend a lot of time dining out − a function of having four kids who are deeply involved in sports.

That led to their interest in opening an eatery, a dream that will become a reality on Wednesday, July 13 when the first I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant in New Mexico opens its doors at 10:30 a.m. at 4903 E. Main St., Unit B in Farmington.

The Santangelos were interested in leaving behind their professions − he worked in the oil and gas industry, while she worked in the medical field − last year when they learned about I Heart Mac & Cheese franchise opportunities. The company was founded in 2019 and is based in Florida, operating in the fast-casual segment of the restaurant business.

"We were really just wanting to be on our own," Autumn Santangelo said of the couple's desire to go into business for themselves.

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Kyle and Autumn Santangelo took a minute's break from their work day July 7 to stand for a portrait in their new restaurant, I Heart Mac & Cheese, which opens its doors July 13 at 10:30 a.m. at 4903 E. Main St., Unit B, in Farmington.

Santangelo said she and her husband traveled to Florida to visit with company representatives and quickly became sold on the idea of bringing I Heart Mac and Cheese back to their home state. Now, even as they put the finishing touches on their 2,500-square-foot eatery that seats 32 diners, they already have plans to expand their holdings by opening another I Heart Mac and Cheese restaurant in Rio Rancho within six months to a year and yet another one in Albuquerque after that.

But first, they're focused on preparing their first restaurant for its grand opening next week. Training for the eatery's 30 employees began this week.

Farmington's new I Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant specializes in made-to-order mac-and-cheese bowls with diners selecting from a variety of bases and toppings.

"They have been with us every step of the way," Autumn Santangelo said of the help she and her husband have received as franchisees. "Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought they would be this helpful. They're never more than one phone call away at all times. Even with our training starting (July 7), there's an entire department flying in (from Florida), which is so great."

The restaurant will offer signature dishes, made-to-order macaroni-and-cheese bowls, grilled cheese sandwiches, side dishes and a variety of desserts. The lineup of signature dishes includes lobster and white truffle macaroni, which is perhaps the eatery's most popular dish, and baked chicken parmesan. The sandwiches run the gamut from the baked mac and cheese sandwiches featuring slow-cooked short rib, white cheddar cheese, American cheese and barbecue sauce to the Cuban, which consists of ham, cheese and pickles.

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The made-to-order bowls allow diners to start with a base of pasta, bread, quinoa, broccoli, cauliflower or tater tots, then add a variety of toppings. That list includes 10 proteins, 11 vegetables and nine cheeses. The offerings also include gluten-free, vegan and plant-based options, while the sauces range from sesame ginger and mango habanero to buffalo, barbecue and pesto.

The Heart Mac & Cheese restaurant located at 4903 E. Main St., Unit B in Farmington offers sandwiches and signature dishes in addition to its made-to-order mac-and-cheese bowls.

Santangelo said prices will range from $6 or $7 for a basic macaroni bowl to $20 for the more elaborate made-to-order or signature dishes.

The first 10 paying customers for the July 13 grand opening of I Heart Mac and Cheese will receive a punch card that allows them to receive a free basic mac-and-cheese bowl once a week for a year.

The restaurant will operate from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 505-787-1385 for more information.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.