by Andrew Morrison | Later this week it will be officially announced that Toptable Group – the company that oversees such esteemed BC restaurant as CinCin, West, Blue Water Cafe, Thierry, Araxi and Bar Oso – has struck a deal with legendary restaurateur Umberto Menghi to purchase his venerated, Italian-themed Il Caminetto restaurant in Whistler. The restaurant will continue as it iss until the end of the first week of April and then launch in time for summer with a new look. Araxi chef James Walt will oversee the transition in the kitchen, while Araxi operations chief Neil Henderson will lead the front. Here’s the draft press release:
Il Caminetto, one of British Columbia’s most-storied restaurants, was founded in 1981 by Umberto Menghi. The consummate chef and host, Umberto has led Vancouver and Whistler’s dining scene over the decades with successful restaurants such as Il Giardino, Al Porto and, most recently, the wildly popular Giardino.
Thirty six years ago, with Il Caminetto, Umberto’s introduction of spirited Tuscan cuisine to Whistler soon took the mountain community by storm – its cosy, romantic rooms and piano bar have warmed thousands of rosy-cheeked visitors over the years.
Now, a change in ownership will preserve Il Caminetto’s legacy as the operations of the restaurant are assumed by Toptable Group on April 15th, 2017. After a brief closure for a redesign, the summer season will see a ‘soft launch’ of the iconic Italian restaurant under its new branding and management company, and pass on the ownership from Umberto Menghi to Toptable Group.
“This was a very hard decision,” Umberto said recently. “We all have so many wonderful memories bound up in this restaurant – from the nights when my friend Tom Jones would thrill dinner guests by breaking into song, to something as simple as hosting out-of- town regulars celebrating a special birthday last weekend.”
Araxi Restaurant’s Executive Chef James Walt’s love for all things Italian is no secret, especially to those who knew him from his posting as Executive Chef to the Canadian Consulate in Rome. With both established and new supplier relationships now secured (gained from his frequent trips to Italy), James is hard at work to subtly adjust the restaurant’s culinary direction – it will meld local and Italian ingredients to a contemporary, regionally-inspired menu. Chef Walt, who also directs the food programs at Araxi Restaurant, The Cellar by Araxi, and Bar Oso, will oversee the kitchen of Il Caminetto, while veteran Restaurant Director Neil Henderson will orchestrate the front-of-house operations for the four dining rooms at Whistler.
“The acquisition of Il Caminetto is pivotal for Toptable Group as we continue to develop our presence as destination restaurants within the Whistler community,” Michael Doyle, President of the group said. “At this time, there are lots of moving parts, but we are committed to building upon our successes at the mountain, and to incorporate them into the launch of the new Il Caminetto. We look forward to working with the outstanding staff and management – after all, they are the face of this iconic restaurant who have shaped Whistler’s hospitality industry.”
“This is a special place, and of course over the years we had many offers to purchase the property,” Umberto Menghi said. “But nothing felt just right until I got together with Toptable – I know that Michael and his team will preserve the legacy, but also take Il Caminetto forward in exciting new ways.”
Just steps from Araxi Restaurant, Il Caminetto is centrally located in the heart of Whistler Village at 4242 Village Stroll,