Chef Lucais Syme and Dustin Dockendorf will be closing their critically-acclaimed Cinara restaurant (350 W. Pender St.) this winter. The news comes less than a year after the launch of their popular, more casual second concept, the Italian-themed Autostrada (4811 Main Street). The plan is to double down on the brand by turning Cinara into a slightly more advanced version of it.
“Think of it as Autostrada Plus.” Dustin told me before service at the restaurant recently. It will have the same core menu as Autostrada (several pastas, salads, meatballs, vitello tonnato, etc.), but with a larger, more capable kitchen adding things like fish, poultry and bistecca to the mix, not to mention alla famiglia-style share plates and lots of Venetian-style cicchetti (small plates and snacks). The wine program will shrink a little to get closer to Austostrada’s tight curation, but there will be a reserve list to peruse, and more seats. After the small renovation moves things around and expands the bar, the 50 seater will grow to accommodate 60.
The key is casual. Long lauded as one of Vancouver’s best restaurants (a perennial Scout 25 contender), there’s an argument to be made that the chef-driven Cinara lives in local diners’ heads as more formal and refined that it was ever intended to be, lending it the aura of a special occasion joint. Meanwhile, Lucais says, at Autostrada “we see Cinara customers more than we see them at Cinara.” Dustin nods, adding: “They still eat well and drink well but they’re more relaxed…they bring their kids…you can see that they’re having a good time, and they aren’t dressed up.”
Here’s more from the owners:
It’s hard to walk away from Cinara because we believe it’s very special, and a restaurant of which we are incredibly proud. The service and culinary teams are exceptional and the sales have continued to grow significantly over the past few years.
With that said, the continually growing success of Autostrada has shown us that our diners are looking for something more casual; something a little less precious; more of the Italian favourites and Lucais’ signature dishes that our guests crave.
Silver lining: we still have plenty of time to enjoy Cinara. The last service is being set for December 31st. The new Autostrada will open in its place shortly thereafter in January, 2019.