The new location of Chef Lucais Syme and Dustin Dockendorf’s popular casual Italian restaurant, Autostrada, is on track to open tonight in the old Cinara address at 350 West Pender Street.
As you may recall, the more formal Cinara restaurant held its final service on New Year’s Eve, closing after a four and a half year run of reliable deliciousness. The blinds have been down on the windows so we haven’t been able to see inside since, but behind the scenes it’s been a hive of activity in there with new touches of Autostrada colour, a new banquette being installed along the west windows and the small bar doubling in size by growing an attractive corner.
If this is the first that you’re hearing of these changes, we broke the news of it back in September…
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.”
Again, the first service for the new Autostrada goes down tonight (January 17th, 2019). They will be open for seven nights a week, starting at 5pm. You’ll find the complete menu included in the gallery below.