An old favorite restaurant spot is getting new life with New Mexican-inspired cuisine.
Secreto, co-owned by an Ahwatukee Foothills businessman and a Valley restaurant veteran, quietly opened two weeks ago in the spot previously occupied by Havana Café.
Joe Ducharme is a seven-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident who is new to restaurant ownership. He most recently worked in pharmaceuticals, but was looking for something else to do after selling his pharmaceutical business.
The restaurant business appealed to Ducharme because he had fond memories of working in a pizza place his dad used to own at Phoenix's old Thomas Mall and waiting tables as an Arizona State University student.
Ducharme partnered with Barbara Brown, who previously owned Richardson's in north central Phoenix with her ex-husband.
Ducharme was a big fan of Richardson's, so he jumped at the chance to bring similar food to a location four miles from his house. (Brown was in Italy when the Ahwatukee Foothills News visited Secreto.)
"Her formula for running a restaurant is amazing," Ducharme said. "The food you get and the service you get are second to none."
Ducharme helped secure the building, taking over the lease from the Havana Café, and has spent the past three months getting it ready to open.
"We're really happy with it. Now it's me handing the baton to (Brown) and saying, ‘Do what you do,'" Ducharme said.
The menu is inspired by New Mexican cuisine, relying on red and green chile flavors in most dishes, said general manager Debbie Fox. A variety of meats on the menu are smoked with pecan wood or grilled.
Ducharme's favorite dish is lamb with jalapeño mint jelly and the side dish featured with entrees: a green chile stuffed with mashed potatoes.
Secreto also features a brunch menu from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends, Fox said.
In addition to the menu, Secreto's owners worked hard to make the atmosphere a little different from other Ahwatukee restaurants.
A copper bar stretches across one side of the main dining room, and deep golden walls with copper accents helps lend a warm feeling to the dimly-lit room. Sunlight filters through window shades made of cactus ribs Ducharme picked up in Rocky Point, adding to the dark, intimate atmosphere.
A private dining room with hookups for business presentations can be reserved for private meetings and is otherwise used for overflow seating. Seating in the main dining room consists of high-topped booths.
"Our booths are nice and high and private, and it's very welcoming with the colors," Fox said.
Secreto has already attracted a nice-sized dinner crowd even though the restaurant has yet to advertise, Fox said.
A grand opening celebration will probably happen in about a month. Ducharme also plans to provide food to the upcoming Red, White and Boom! celebration.
"We're just happy to be here," Fox said. "(Ahwatukee residents) support local businesses, and I think we're going to do well."
Secreto is at 4232 E. Chandler Blvd. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight daily, with food served until 10 p.m. Secreto opens at 9 a.m. on weekends for brunch.