A new Wegmans supermarket on track to open in Natick this April will feature not just a surplus of grocery items but also a full-service restaurant chock full of Mexican dishes and plenty of tequila.
Roberto Santibañez — the chef and owner of Fonda, a restaurant with three locations in New York City — serves as culinary director of Blue Dalia, which will open May 4 on the second floor of the Natick Wegmans. Santibañez, who is originally from Mexico City, has created a menu of contemporary Mexican dishes, including made-to-order salsas, along with cocktails.
Santibañez takes his inspiration from his hometown, and the restaurant is named for Mexico’s national flower. Santibañez has consulted with the Wegmans company for several years, leading him to sign on to develop one of the two restaurants that will be part of the Natick location of the Rochester, New York-based supermarket chain.
Wegmans brought in restaurant designer Mark Knauer, who consulted with Santibañez to develop a cohesive design for the space that feels decidedly Mexican, not Tex-Mex, Santibañez said.
“Aesthetically, it’s going to be a beautiful place,” he told Eater.
As for the food, diners can expect to see dishes taken from all over Mexico, not one singular area like Oaxaca or Veracruz.
“We want it to be really accessible,” he said. “The menu speaks about all the regions in my country. We’ll showcase things from all over the country, and that’s what I like to do.”
Certain dishes will feature tortillas made and pressed in-house, and there will be both red and green salsas, plus guacamole, prepared to customers’ tastes and mixed with mortar and pestle.
While the menu is still in development, Santibañez said it will include comforting items like braised pork and salsa verde, along with caldo tlalpeño, a soup made with carrots, peas, garbanzo beans, and a chicken broth flavored with chipotle peppers. Dishes will be simple and approachable, but sophisticated, Santibañez said.
“In the end, it’s going to be really satisfying, fulfilling, heart-warming Mexican food. It’s about sharing and ordering a few dishes so we can all try them,” he said. “It will be very refreshing.”
The connection with the Wegmans store will provide the restaurant easy access to seasonal ingredients, which Santibañez said would afford the opportunity to improvise.
“Having the market there, it’s going to be a totally new great experience, just for the everyday playing that we do in our kitchens,” he said. “Every day we do something new. On top of our work, we always do something a little extra.”
On the beverage side, Blue Dalia will serve margaritas and other cocktails, as well as a selection of tequila and mezcal.
Geno Bahena will serve as the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, overseeing daily operations of the restaurant.
“Chef Roberto has created a menu that pays homage to traditional family recipes from Mexico’s 32 regions presented in a contemporary way. Every dish tells a story,” Bahena said via press release. “We’re building a great team to execute that vision and offer guests an authentic and energetic dining experience.”
Overall, Santibañez told Eater, he’s both excited and nervous for this new venture in Natick.
“I really hope we’ll be able to please our guests over there, and I really hope we can be embraced by the community as we embrace the community ourselves,” he said.
In addition to Blue Dalia, the Natick Wegmans will also feature The Burger Bar, a casual restaurant specializing in burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more. The new Wegmans in Medford also has a location of The Burger Bar. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, there are Wegmans locations — without Burger Bars — in Burlington, Chestnut Hill, Northborough, and Westwood.
It’s one of a number of Rochester-based brands expanding into the Boston area these days. Abbott’s Frozen Custard, for one, is opening its third Massachusetts location soon, and Black & Blue, an upscale steak and seafood restaurant with locations in Rochester, Albany, and Buffalo, is coming to Burlington.
The Natick Wegmans is slated to open April 29, with Blue Dalia following suit on May 4. Both are in the midst of hiring employees ahead of the opening, with a goal of finding 225 full-timers and 325 part-timers to staff the store and restaurant.