WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

Lola’s is a new restaurant at The Longmeadow Shops that focuses on coastal Mexican flavors.
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

LONGMEADOW — People looking for a little something different in their dining routine can now experience Lola’s, a restaurant specializing in what Co-owner Ralph Santaniello describes as “coastal Mexican flavors.”

“We thought we could do something different,” Santaniello said. His brother-in-law, Michael Presnal, is the co-owner and executive chef for The Federal Group, a series of restaurants that include The Federal in Agawam, Vinted Wine Bar in West Hartford, Connecticut, and Posto, an Italian restaurant a few doors down from Lola’s at The Longmeadow Shops. “We open restaurants we would like to go to,” Santaniello said.

Describing the vibe of the eatery as “casual elegance,” Santaniello said that the three keys to a successful restaurant are the food, atmosphere and service. Lola’s specializes in “tacos, tequila and oysters.” Santaniello said the raw bar is quite popular.

“We have light, clean flavors. Even the tacos are light and fresh,” he said. Instead of using a lot of sauces and creams, he said, “You let the ingredients shine through.”

He explained, “We use the best ingredients we can find.” Santaniello shared an anecdote illustrating that principle. When it was decided Lola’s would not make tortillas in-house, he and Presnal started looking for a local vendor. “There’s a great Mexican family in Hadley” who run the restaurant, Mi Tierra. They make tortillas using corn grown by a local farm and deliver fresh tortillas to Lola’s every other day.

Santaniello said the restaurant would rather seek out that level of freshness than “save a few cents.”
As a restaurant that touts its tequila, it should come as no shock that Lola’s has more than 80 tequilas and mezcals from which to choose. “Tequila’s come a long way in this country,” Santaniello said. “If you’re a tequila lover, you’ll love this place.”

Lola’s employs between 60 and 70 people, many of them are area residents, although Santaniello said that the restaurant leadership has many employees that had been working at The Federal until it was recently closed for renovations. “Some of the people we work with have been with us 15 years and are very good at what they do.”

The restaurant can seat up to 131 people, including bar service. Santaniello said he and Presnal learned when they opened Posto that many people like to sit and eat at the bar, so when Lola’s was built, they made sure to accommodate that.

Santaniello said he and Presnal first saw the space, which had formerly housed Ume Asian Bistro, in November 2022. “We took over the space in February 2023. We tore everything out. It was down to the concrete walls,” Santaniello said. He said that despite the space having a former life as a restaurant, it can be easier to start with a “clean slate.” He noted that Santaniello said the town was “absolutely incredible” to work with throughout the process of opening the restaurant.

The doors opened on March 19. Santaniello said there was a conscious choice to open with only dinner service for one week. The owners wanted to perfect their dinner menu before including a lunch service. Confident that had been accomplished, Lola’s began serving lunch on March 26.

Lola’s is located at 732 Bliss Rd. For more information on the restaurant, visit lolaslongmeadow.com.

cmaza@thereminder.com | + posts