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Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 3:00 pm | Updated: 7:33 pm, Fri Aug 23, 2013.

Food lovers in Owatonna will have a pair of new eating establishments to try soon as two new restaurants are set to open, one of which is bringing a new type of cuisine to the city.

Andiamo Italian Ristorante is moving into the space formerly occupied by the Big 10 Restaurant, which closed its doors permanently last October.

Additionally, the south side of town will see another Mexican restaurant come into the space which used to house Plaza Morena’s south location. The name of the new restaurant is Agave Azul and it will be located on 18th Street Southeast. Plaza Morena moved all its operations to its location on 26th Street Northeast earlier this year. Attempts to contact officials with Agave Azul were not successful.

Enrique Ruiz, general manager for Andiamo, said a hiring drive was held in Owatonna earlier this week. He said Andiamo, which also has a location in Eagan, will employ about 30 people, mostly part-time.

“Over the next couple weeks, we’re looking to hire all of our positions pretty much,” Ruiz said. “We have our managers and a little bit of kitchen staff that we are bringing with us from our Eagan location, but we need a lot of people. We’re kind of doing cattle calls this week and we’re hoping to bring in as many people as we can and then we’ll narrow down our applicants from there.”

Ruiz said the restaurant does a lot of scratch cooking focusing on pasta dishes. He also said that pizza is part of the menu. Ruiz described the restaurant as a casual atmosphere.

“We want it to feel upscale without it being as stuffy as an upscale place,” Ruiz said. “We try to cultivate kind of a laid-back family atmosphere. Our restaurant in Eagan is very family-oriented, and that’s kind of the idea that we’re going for in Owatonna.”

Ownership for Andiamo have been looking to expand its brand for a while, including in places like Woodbury, which is closer to their operation in Eagan. In the end, Ruiz said, the property owner for the space in Owatonna was eager to work with Andiamo management to bring the restaurant to Owatonna.

Because Andiamo is moving into an already built-out space, Ruiz said it wasn’t as large of an investment as it usually is to bring a new restaurant to the area. Ruiz said starting the restaurant in Owatonna took an investment between $35,000 and $50,000. He said because Owatonna doesn’t really have an Italian restaurant, it was a good opportunity to come into the city.

“We felt like we could make a name for ourselves down there,” Ruiz said, adding that Andiamo is a family-owned business. “We’re really confident in the location and we’re obviously excited to expand our brand. We don’t want to have 1,000 restaurants, but any time we expand the business a little bit, it is exciting.”

Currently, the plan is for Andiamo to open on Sept. 23, Ruiz said. He said there are plans to have a couple of events, such as a VIP dinner and an open house, before the official opening. The only thing that would delay the opening, Ruiz said, is if the restaurant is unable to find enough staff.

Big 10 closed its doors last October and has sat vacant ever since.

In addition to Andiamo, another new restaurant is coming to the northwest side of the city. Klecker said that the building permits are ready for a Panda Express to go in next to McDonald’s on West Frontage Road. Klecker said construction on the Panda Express could begin in the next few weeks.

Community Development Director Troy Klecker said the city wasn’t involved in the Agave Azul deal.

“This was more privately done. It came down to working out a deal with the property owner,” Klecker said. “A high priority for us is to fill vacant buildings. Whenever we can fill it with a need in the community, that’s just a big plus for the entire community.”

Reach reporter Al Strain at 444-2376 or follow him on

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