Celebration held for Ama Cocina re-opening in Downtown
ALBANY: A ribbon cutting ceremony was held today, October 20, 2023, celebrating the re-opening of Ama Cocina at 4 Sheridan Avenue in downtown Albany. Joining BMT Hospitality owners Brian Viglucci, Mike Viglucci and Tony Luonello, Ama Cocina Managing Partner Tisean Daniels, and Downtown Albany Business Improvement District Executive Director Georgette Steffens were Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, and Counsel to the Albany County Executive Jeffery Jamison.
The restaurant known for its vibrant décor, flavorful Mexican street food, and expansive tequila offerings has experienced some upgrades since COVID-19 forced its closure in December 2020. Most notably, changes include an updated menu, new artwork, the addition of “The Agave Room,” a semi-private area fitted with a projector, which can be used for meetings or events, as well as a spot decorated with a neon sign, plants, and art, perfect for selfies and photos, and the addition of a new Managing Partner with seasoned restaurateur Tisean Daniels.
Albany-based BMT Hospitality, which originally opened the restaurant in 2015, knew they were going to re-open the popular eatery, but a timeline remained elusive as pandemic restrictions stopped or limited both events and employees’ return to the office. It was in the Spring of 2023 that plans for welcoming guests again began to take shape, as the number of workers in Downtown began approaching pre-pandemic levels and Downtown events were exceeding pre-COVID numbers, with BMT thrilled to throw open the restaurant’s signature large garage door in August for the first time in nearly three years.
Daniels moved to the Capital Region in 2020 from New York City, where he had worked in a wide range of bars, clubs and restaurants. Notably, he managed Nur in Manhattan, known for leading a wave of Middle Eastern restaurants in the City. Daniels worked as general manager of BMT-owned The Point Italian Kitchen and Cocktails for one year until its closure last New Year’s Eve. Impressed with his work at The Point, BMT knew he was the right person to bring Ama back to life.
Daniels says he wanted to avoid repetitive, deconstructed menu items seen at other modern Mexican restaurants. The new menu instead focuses on shareables like street tacos, guacamole, and empanadas, and also offers quesadillas, bowls, and knife-and-fork style burritos. Favorites include the queso fundido, loaded with pinto beans, crumbled chorizo, Oaxaca cheese and pico de gallo; street corn dressed with lime aioli, cotija cheese and chili dust; and Daniels’ personal favorite, spicy shrimp tacos simply topped with fresh cut onions and cilantro The full bar offers an impressive selectin of tequilas and mezcals, and Daniels says curated flights of agave-based spirits are in the works. Specialty cocktails include a Pisco and Pear Sour, a Cold Brew Martini made with tequila, and of course, several variations of margaritas.
Reservations for Ama Cocina can be made on OpenTable, and the space is available for private parties and events. Daniels plans to host DJs at Ama, and in the future, live music.
BMT Hospitality Managing Partner Brian Viglucci said: “Ama Cocina holds a special place in our portfolio, in no small part because of its location in this vibrant neighborhood. After the challenges of 2020, we’re back, stronger and more dedicated than ever. We’re delighted to invite everyone to join us once again, to savor the delicious food, raise a toast to new and old friends, and celebrate the spirit captured in the colorful walls and bold flavors of Ama.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said: "Ama Cocina has been a Downtown Albany staple for years, and while the pandemic forced ownership to temporarily close and pivot, I am very excited they are ready to reopen. This eagerly-awaited day is possible in part because downtown Albany has become a walkable neighborhood where housing is available and we are attracting businesses and visitors every day. I sincerely thank the Viglucci Family for their continued dedication to and investment in the City of Albany, and look forward to many more years of delicious Mexican cuisine on Sheridan Avenue."
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said: “One thing COVID-19 couldn’t take from Albany — officially — is one of our Mexican eateries and staples, Ama Cocina! Downtown Albany would simply not be the same without Ama Cocina, and I’m thrilled to see them finally cut the ribbon on their grand re-opening, and wish them the best of luck in the future. Small businesses like Ama Cocina breathe life and character into our neighborhoods, are cornerstones of our communities, and I commend them for continuing to invest in the core of our Capital Region; downtown Albany.”
County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said: “I know I speak for the rest of Albany County when I say that I couldn’t be more excited to welcome back the new-and-improved Ama Cocina, which had become a local favorite before the pandemic forced their doors to close like so many others. The reopening of Ama Cocina is symbolic of a larger resurgence of the Downtown neighborhood and Albany as a whole. Restaurants like this help to create a sense of place and a unique identity here, while providing residents and visitors and place to gather for some great food. I want to thank BMT Hospitality for their continued investment in our community.”
Downtown Albany BID Executive Director Georgette Steffens said: “It was this time in November 2015 that we first welcomed Ama Cocina, and we are thrilled to be here today to celebrate BMT’s commitment to Downtown. Across the country it has been a rough road emerging from the pandemic, but our District is moving forward thanks to our growing residential, event numbers that exceed pre-COVID numbers with Albany County recently announcing record-breaking operating profit at the MVP Arena, and 93 percent of Downtown employees having returned to the office. As the heart of the Capital City, Downtown is Albany to the Core, thanks in large part to the business owners including Brian, Mike, and Tony, who strengthen the fabric of our neighborhood thanks to their time, dedication, and investment.”
Ama Cocina is located at 4 Sheridan Avenue and open Tuesday-Thursday 4:00 PM-9:00 PM and Friday & Saturday 4:00 PM-10:00 PM. For more information, visit amacocina.com or follow the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.