These images – showing a note on the locked front door at long-running Francesco’s Ristorante Italia (aka Don Franceso’s at 860 Burrard Street off Robson) – were sent over last night from reader J.C..
“Francesco’s is closed. Thank you for 54 wonderful years.”
Last week, a note on the restaurant’s Facebook page announced two final services, beginning as follows: “We are very sad and sorry to announce that our landlord at Don Francesco’s has forced us to close…”
Its founder, Francesco Alongi, was a Sicilian legend of the old school who had the protocols of European table service indelibly imprinted on his brain. He was also a hugely talented opera singer – a Tenore Robusto – and he would occasionally serenade his guests in the dining room (I’m proud to say he sang at my wedding). He died in 2015, two years after selling the restaurant.
I’m unsure what the “54 years” refers to in the notice. This iteration of Francesco’s was launched in 2002, making it all of 15 years old. Alongi owned a different restaurant on Richards Street from 1975 to 1990 (what eventually became Lucy Mae Brown), but if I’m not mistaken he worked for Umberto Menghi in the intervening years (and also took time off for health reasons). Perhaps someone can fill in the blanks for me?
In any event, 15 years might as well be 54 in restaurant years. It doesn’t really matter. Don Francesco, like the man himself, was an institution, attracting a ‘special occasion’ crowd and many a tourist sent by many a concierge. We hope the staff land on their feet, and wonder – hardly – at what chain abomination the landlords will court to replace it.