John Bishop left to open a risky new venture to explore the notion of west coast cuisine. And a bright young chef named Pino Posteraro shone briefly in the kitchen before heading to Yaletown to go it alone. Many more Vancouver culinary luminaries passed through its doors - not to mention a couple of generations of movers and shakers who dined there. But not for much longer. It's official. Umberto Menghi's Il Giardino will close later this spring.
Even though it's been known for some time that Menghi had plans to develop the location (at one time, pre-Winter Games, a boutique hotel with an Italian market was close to reality), the news still came as a shock to a lot of people.
Between the soft economy, the decline of business entertainment write-offs over the last decade or so and the drive for more casual styles, fine dining has taken a big hit. However, Il Giardino appeared robust on the surface: surely an institution that would endure.
But it was not to be. Meng-hi has sold the property to a developer. In the end, condos trumped carbonara.
"It was a very bittersweet decision to make, as Il Giardino is one of my proudest career achievements," explains Menghi (who will remain active at his Whistler restos) and says he is "deeply grateful for the loyalty and longstanding support of my gracious staff and chefs."
Mengi reigned for more than three decades as one of Vancouver's true, original culinary superstars. He developed his own brand that incorporated at one time a TV cooking show with significant audience, a series of popular cookbooks and a chain of 14 fast food pastarias. In all, he founded 10 restaurants, as well as the cooking school/resort Villa Delia, near his birthplace in Italy. His highly successful business model predated by several years the now-familiar practice of branded chefs and restaurateurs.
The announcement leaves plenty of time for those who haven't experienced Il Giardino to do so - including as part of Dine Out Vancouver. The restaurant remains open for dinner, with a firm closing date to be announced later.
Speaking of the Dine Out Vancouver Festival (Jan. 18 to Feb. 3), this year's edition features more restaurants than ever (more than 200) and a score of special events that blend visual and performing arts with food and wine. We'll be checking out Edible Canada's 10-part speaker series, making our own pizza at Rocky Mountain Flatbread and heading for the Grape Debate, to mention just a few. Full details at dineoutvancouver.com.
We're seriously into the "R" months now - when oysters are traditionally at their best. All the more reason to take note of "Oysters and Stout" an evening of illuminating chat and good tastes from filmmaker Craig Noble and Cortes Island bivalve guru Brent Petkau, for a screening of Noble's latest short The Perfect Oyster.
Nobel will match Petkau's oysters with a "proper flight of stout" and an Umami Stout Cocktail.
Proceeds from the $65 ticket help raise funds for Noble's next documentary, CRAFT. Tickets for the Jan. 22, 7 p.m. event at Legacy Liquor Store, legacyliquorstore.com/events. hiredbelly.com