Restaurant Preview: Whistler’s Il Caminetto Opens Tomorrow

The Toptable Group aims to reinvent Umberto Menghi's Whistler outpost just in time for ski season.

The Toptable Group aims to reinvent Umberto Menghi’s Whistler outpost just in time for ski season.

When the Aquilini Family bought the Toptable Group (CinCin, Blue Water, Araxi, West, etc) from legendary restaurateur Jack Evrensel back in 2014, there were more than a few wags who predicted that the high-end grouping would invariably slide down the quality ladder. After all, Evrensel was renowned for his insane approach to detail and the Aquilinis, well, they had hockey teams, cranberry fields, vineyards, and a thousand other distractions to keep them from keeping their eye on the ball.Well so much for prognostications: under the new owners, CinCin has reinvented itself from a tourist-heavy standby to the winner of VanMag‘s Best Italian for the first time in a long while; Blue Water reigns as Best Seafood champ and Araxi, continues to own the Best Whistler category. But Araxi is about to have a pretty serious challenger from an unexpected place: last year, the group purchased Umberto Menghi’s Il Caminetto di Umberto and set about creating the next great Whistler restaurant, just in time for ski season.First they retained the Rockwell Group out of New York to give the space a much needed refresh and, in a surprising move, they’ve shuttled James Walt from Araxi to Il Caminetto and shuttled Quang Dang from Vancouver’s West restaurant over to Araxi. The space was supposed to be open just before Christmas, but even with all the little elves working round-the-clock it looks like post-Christmas will be more likely.Here are the specs: a 35-seat bar and lounge area (the biggest in Toptable’s stable); total seating for 160 (plus patio come summer) and two private dining rooms (one intimate glass-walled option right smack in the wine cellar). They’ve been tight-lipped about the food other than suggesting that there will be an emphasis on freshness and lightness in the way Italian food should be.We stopped by last week to check in on the progress: The palette will be noticeably lighter than the dark old room. They’ve invested (big time) in a Pavalier over, so all bread will be made in house. Still some work to be done. Outside will sport that same classic Whistler-stone that cover’s every other spot in the Village.We plan to head up early in 2018—stay tuned for a review of the first bites.