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Chef Andrey Durbach and wine pro Gordon Ritchie have partnered up for this new Vancouver restaurant.
Chef Andrey Durbach, known for launching La Buca, Parkside and Sardine Can, famously left the Mainland to open Il Falcone in Courtenay several years ago. The Vancouver Island restaurant quickly became a mainstay for authentic Italian cuisine that highlights Comox Valley produce.
But the chef has returned Vancouver to open Impostori with wine pro Gordon Ritchie. The two are long-time friends who originally became close over a shared passion for everything great about Italy—namely the wine and food. They’ve also worked together for over twenty years, with Ritchie sourcing wine on trips to Italy that Durbach then featured at his restaurants.
Impostori, the duo’s first official business together, has been in the works for over a year now, and despite the normal hiccups faced while opening a restaurant (plus the supply chain issues we’re all experiencing), it’s set to open this July. Although Durbach has run his fair share of Italian restaurants, and Ritchie has spent ample time working with Italian wines and wineries, neither are actually Italian – and it’s the reason behind the restaurant’s name. They’re here to celebrate “the art of Italian food and wine from an outsider’s point of view.”
So while the restaurant will be serving Italian classics, there’s some flexibility in terms of tradition, with dishes that are influenced by Durbach’s international travels. And you won’t find red and white tablecloths here: expect engaging yet casual service with a lively happy hour.
Impostori will be open for late lunch (pranzo tardi), Saturday lunch and dinner. For those that know Durbach’s cooking, you can expect his biggest hits to appear as menu mainstays. “My half a boneless, crispy roast chicken has appeared on every menu for the past thirty years,” he says, “so that will never leave.” Additionally, there are items that Durbach believes should be on any Italian restaurant menu and therefore will remain on his indefinitely, like osso bucco (Ritchie’s favourite) and a steak dish for two.
The rest of the menu has a diverse selection of Italian dishes that they describe as whimsical (think a Caesar salad that’s a play on the classic Roman puntarella salad), but it is how the menu is laid out that is so interesting. “We didn’t want to set up our menu in a super traditional way,” says Durbach, and that means mutli-course set price options, like a prezzo fisso three course menu where you choose your own dishes, a five-course chef’s menu, and family-style dining, where the restaurant provides a selection of their favourite dishes.
Additionally, Ritchie explains that “they want to encourage you to dine like they do in Italy,” with smaller-size courses that allow for the sampling of multiple dishes. The antipasti selection ranges from the traditional (vitello tonnato) to the adventurous (smoked speck with taleggio, sage butter and roasted pineapple). Impostori has a wide selection of pastas available for their piccoli primi course, more suitable for a starter or mid-course meal. As in Italy, secondi are protein-forward dishes, with the roast duck alla nonna (Durbach’s own grandmother’s recipe) as a standout.
Behind the scenes: Roast duck alla Nonna during a taste testing day while menu planning.
Impostori is slated as a trattoria and negroni bar, with a cocktail service that includes a selection of spritz, bellinis, birria alla spina and, of course, negronis. They’ve sourced wine from their favourite vineyards from all over Italy. While the list is nearly entirely Italian, a few bottles will be imposters, too: wines that can stand up to the Italian bottles and “make everybody scratch their heads.”
The space itself is colourful and bright with banquettes that are ideal for the family-style meals set to appear at the table. The room itself is 1500 square-feet that seats thirty-six people, with additional seating on the patio. “I’ve had restaurants on the west side for twenty-five years or so,” says Durbach, “so it feels like home.” Adding to the sense of home, Ritchie says, is that “all of Durbach’s old staff have come back—they’ve got the band back together.” Behind the scenes: Colourful wall decorations and chairs line the side of the bar.
Behind the scenes: Andrey Durbach finding the ideal table placement at the banquette.
After two years where get togethers were at a minimum, Durbach and Ritchie are thrilled to bring Impostori restaurant to South Granville. “We had a lot of joy sucked out of our lives [over the last two years], and a lot of socializing and joy happens around the table,” says Durbach. “This restaurant is good for the neighbourhood, but it’s really good for all of our souls.”
Behind the scenes: The Impostori sign during installment.
Address: 3121 Granville Street