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.
Other than the actual human carnage to come out of this crisis, this is the worst news yet. If Chef Belcham can’t make it work, what hope is there?
I will miss it a lot.
Oh darn! I loved Campagnolo; it was one of my fave restos in the hood.
12 years is an amazing run – especially in Vancouver. Campagnolo was a landmark for dining and saw some of Canada’s best cooks on that cramped line (including a young J.C.Poirier, Ted Anderson, Adam Vahn, Alvin Pillay) and even before Peter VDR created the one of a kind Upstairs space, Jay Jones crafted perfect Negroni’s in the back room. RB was kind enough to rent the upstairs space to Lauren and I for a number of years, where we started our little bitters company and catered hundreds of cocktail & dinner events.
Campagnolo was one of a kind when it opened and never lost sight of the farm and field, seasonal mantra. In a time of many restaurant closures, this is one to be championed as legendary.
I’ll also miss that incomparably talented Chef Jordan Caverly. Hope he finds another great restaurant to showcase his work.
I’m so sad to hear this. It was so edgy when it opened – it literally helped push cool up the street from Chinatown to Main. I will always miss Peter VDR’s banter & cocktails upstairs! Makes me think that every restaurant now has to consider outdoor space as a non negotiable. Wish them all well.
So so so sad. Being in the biz we know how you feel and how hard it is at the best of times. You guys are amazing. Before, now and always!
Is it already closed or do we still have time for one more dirty burger??? Best burger in town will be sad to see it go.
I find it hard to believe in a space THEY OWNED- they just couldn’t make it work. I’ve seen restaurants all over Vancouver pivot to online/ pick up only ways to make ends meet. I’ll never forget how the bartender actually ran out of the Hastings location to scream at me for parking my motorcycle in an empty parking lot because I wasn’t going to eat there or the overpriced, lukwarm food I ventured to main street for which arrived with a haughty attitude on the side. These 3 owners can’t figure out a way says more about their luxurious lifestyles than trying to keep a business afloat for a few months of a lockdown. Blaming Covid is a cheap excuse.