The ever-evolving Restaurant Graveyard series looks back at the countless, long-shuttered establishments that helped to propel Vancouver’s food and drink forward. Full A-Z with maps and photos here. May they never be forgotten!
One of the first stories Scout ever published was about the coming of Campagnolo restaurant in the late Autumn of 2008. Barack Obama had just been elected; the world was on the precipice of an era-defining Financial Crisis; and Vancouver had just voted in a handsome, juice-making DJ as its Mayor. I remember thinking that three fine dining veterans opening a casual pasta/pizza joint on the same block as the Ivanhoe Pub was a little crazy, but Robert Belcham, Tim Pittman and Tom Doughty evidently knew what they were doing. They had seen the rapid change that was happening on the stretch of Main Street between Chinatown and what would soon become Olympic Village. They were playing the long game. The move gave them commissary space for expansion (see Campagnolo Roma‘s arrival in 2011) and offices upstairs, not to mention room to create their speakeasy-like Campagnolo Upstairs hideaway, home of the Dirty Burger, in 2014. But at launch success was no sure thing. They worked hard for it, breaking their own backs with construction, hiring extremely well (eg. Giovanni Giardino, Peter Van de Reep), getting great press and winning big awards like Best New Restaurant and Chef of the Year. Campagnolo was even included in the 2009 “hottest new restaurants in the world” issue of Condé Nast Traveler.
But all good things must come to an end. I’m sad to report that the two Camps, upstairs and down, are closing for good. Belcham, who has already informed the staff, tells me it wasn’t an easy decision. They aren’t being forced out by a greedy landlord who was looking to raise the rent by 50%. Nor are they being turfed to make room for a bunch of condos no one from the neighbourhood could possibly afford. (Belcham, Pittman and Doughty are unicorns in that they actually own the building that contains their businesses.) What’s shutting them down is the pandemic, plain and simple. They haven’t resumed operations proper since the lockdown started in March, and they don’t see a pathway towards profitability in the immediate future. While definitely a big bummer, these times are so brimming with big bummers that I’ve chosen to be selfish and unsentimental about it at the same time. Casual Italian is now a very crowded genre in Vancouver; we won’t have to go far for a comparable Margherita pizza or Spaghetti Pomodoro. Yeah, I’m definitely going to miss the crispy ceci and the awesome haunt that was Campagnolo Upstairs, but I’m not a little excited to see what restaurant project Pittman and Belcham will undertake next. Silver linings, et cetera.
The shots below were taken (by me) during the restaurant’s construction and opening in late 2008.