As the heat of summer fades and we look forward to the golden light and shimmers of fall, we also get to look forward to fall menus; when it's finally cool enough to dig into hearty stews, rich squash dishes and the golden child of cold weather comfort foods—pasta surrounded by ooey-gooey layers of bubbling hot cheese. Macaroni and cheese? Yes, please!

Even though mac and cheese is one of the most amazing combinations in the known universe, it has always struck me that what passes for the glorious dish—mainly, the kind that comes out of a box and includes dehydrated processed cheese powder—is an insult.

I'm lucky to have a couple friends who are macaroni and cheese connoisseurs. They know all the best places around town to get it—Rowley Farmhouse Ales, Tumbleroot and Boxcar. But their very favorite is a place once known as
Macalicious; an entire restaurant focused on this happy food. When I looked it up, however, I found that Macalicious was no longer! I almost cried at the thought that I had missed out on this genius idea of a restaurant. But the website redirected and, phew! All was well in the world.

"I got a letter from an attorney in Ohio representing a food truck in Los
Angeles called Mac-o-licious," says Theo Gio, owner of the former Macalicious. "Even though I had done my due diligence and registered the trademark in New Mexico, they had registered a federal trademark so … I bowed out gracefully."

Now known as Theo Gio's Mac & Cheese (226 N Guadalupe St., 557-6495), it's the same bright, casual, Zozobra-festooned space offering up the same scrumptious dishes as it did before.

"Nothing has changed," says Gio. "Actually, I have expanded the menu."

In addition to mac and cheese, one can choose from appetizers, salads, sandwiches and desserts. The Okey Dokey Artichokey ($12), artichoke hearts bubbling in olive oil in parmesan cheese with a side of garlic toast points, sold out when Gio first put it on the menu. Another all-ages favorite is the caramelized banana split ($8) featuring bananas cooked in caramelized brown sugar and topped with vanilla ice cream, Hershey's chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry.

"I have some regulars who come in and order that first then take their mac and cheese home with them," laughs Gio.

Gio is originally from Pittsburgh, and says a mac and cheese restaurant was his "plan B" after moving to Santa Fe in 2015. Arriving with his German shepherd,
Tequila, Gio's original dream to open a Tex-Mex restaurant soon faded when he realized how many already existed.

"I waited tables at Geronimo and Inn of the Five Graces, and every week I would still acquire something for a restaurant: a pot, pan, chair, or table," Gio tells SFR. "I had been making mac and cheese for friends and family for years and they all really loved it. I already knew I had a home run with the recipes so, on August 31, 2017, Macalicious was born."

Despite the issues over the name, Gio has seen success with his creative takes on this beloved comfort food staple. He serves more than a dozen varieties, all available in small, large and party-sized. Small (serves one, with leftovers) and large (serves two, with leftovers) are prepared to order but if you have a lot of mouths to feed, take note that the catering half-pan, which serves six-to-seven, requires 24 hours advance notice. The most popular variety is, of course, the Santa Fe green chile mac and cheese ($10-$29). Other favorites include the 'shroom & truffle ($12-$35), Gio's homemade bechamel boosted with
sauteed mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella and truffle oil.

"This is my favorite," he says, "with the addition of bacon."

With so many choices it is hard to make just one, so diners also have the option of a mac and cheese "flight" ($23)–three 4.5 ounce tastes of whichever mac and cheese you desire. With this genius offering, my mac and cheese experts and I tasted six different types. Having done so, I determined I could definitely put down a party tray of the rich, smoky four cheese. The tuna was also a fave. With baby peas and cheddar, it brought back memories of my mom's awesome 1970s casserole experiments. I ordered the Greek as well because the ingredients just sounded too weird as mac and cheese. I was wrong! Turns out kalamata olives, spinach, red onion, feta, and oregano make mac exciting. A staple order of one of my aficionados, the Buffalo chicken, stood out with its spicy, vinegary wing sauce flavor boosted by the richness of bechamel and blue cheese.

Perhaps it was a good time for a name change, and Gio is looking to make some additional changes soon, including a potential new location closer to the Plaza and the addition of beer and wine. Otherwise, while the name may have changed, the good news for fans of Gio's belly-warming mac and cheese is that everything else will, mostly, be staying just the same.