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Kitchen Table Expands to Chinatown: Take a Look Inside New Daytime Deli and Wine-Focused ‘Cantina Di Luigi’

Best restaurants in Chinatown Vancouver | Photo by Scout Magazine, The Best of What to Eat Drink and Do In Vancouver Michelle Sproule

It’s been just a little over a year since Mercato di Luigi opened inside the former Oh Carolina space at 580 E 12th Avenue (see our March 2023 Opening Soon story here), but the cafe and Italian grocer is already ready to grow into a second Chinatown location – with an exciting, evening-time twist.

The new space at 213 E Georgia Street will take some of the heat off of the Fraserhood spot by serving as Mercato di Luigi’s flagship. Which means that guests to the Chinatown location can expect a pumped up deli selection and in-house bakery, to check off even more items from their grocery lists. The latter, no doubt, should have been an easy transition, owing to the space’s previous incarnation as Matchstick Coffee. The most anticipated feature of Kitchen Table’s newest addition, though, is a special section that will operate as a restaurant five evenings per week.

‘Cantina Di Luigi’ will be a wine-focused spin on the restaurant group’s beloved Railtown restaurant, Ask for Luigi, which it will be taking its service and food menu cues from. This new venture draws from a place of nostalgia, culled from Italian cantinas. Although if you didn’t grow up in Italy, you probably immediately think of a cantina as somewhere you stock up on provisions and maybe grab a sandwich from. Perhaps you’d never guess that wine was the thing at the centre of its purpose; this is where it was traditionally made and kept – barrels of it, if you were lucky.

When entering the space from Georgia Street, guests will at first step into the mercato area, characterized by a cluster of small wooden tables following the green walls of the forward portion of the room, and a coffee and deli counter running the length of the west wall. Like its older sibling, the Chinatown Mercato di Luigi will feature a selection of Italian pastries and proper espresso. The menu will also include a daily rotating offering of two types of pasta, arancini, fresh bread, sliced deli meats, and cheeses – ready to take home, or be assembled onto a charcuterie board to enjoy on site. Opposite the deli, a raised platform outfitted with shelving for specialty groceries (think olive oil, anchovy paste, and canned tomatoes imported from Italy, as well as locally produced quality goods) and a fridge stocked with prepared food to-go will serve as a retail section by the day… But in the evening, this space will be transformed into the cantina’s waiting area, where guests can perch to enjoy a snack and glass of wine as you bide your time.

In keeping with the Italian cantina theme, Cantina Di Luigi is separated from the main room by a curtained entry and enclosed by floor-to-ceiling wine racks, creating a cellar-like ambiance. While the bustling mercato area features a soothing off-white and green colour scheme, warm terracotta tones give the cantina a more intimate feeling, along with pendant lights hovering above the seating, and arched ‘windows’ along the west wall allowing in muted light from the kitchen. Even in its unfinished state, the 30-seat room feels private yet inviting, like the best kind of juicy secret.

As previously alluded, the restaurant’s food menu will follow the formula of pasta, salads and small plates which has served Ask For Luigi so well over the last ten years. Wines will be available by the glass and bottle, and there will an innovative cocktail program developed by General Manager, Matthew Morgenstern (also Director of Hospitality for Kitchen Table Group). Notably, for this project Morgenstern actually has some skin in the game, and he will be on the floor regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly – particularly during the cantina evening service.

When I toured the space yesterday, aside from some millwork (scheduled for later this week) and a few cosmetic details, it looked nearly ready. In reality, the estimated completion time is still 6-8 weeks out. Once doors do officially open, the plan is to have the bread ovens fired up and baking at 5am, with the cafe and mercato open by 7/8am (until 6pm), seven days of the week. Restaurant hours will be Thursday through Sunday, starting at 6pm. In the meantime, get yourself fired up by taking a sneak peak inside via our exclusive photos below.

Mercato di Luigi (Chinatown)
Neighbourhood: Chinatown
213 East Georgia St.
(Opening soon)

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