At first it was word on the street and then media in print, TV and radio talked about the closing of Amici’s and sister restaurant Bambolini closing after New Year’s Eve. To be sure they had a very good run over 30 years and was often remarked as being one of Canada’s finest eating establishments by publications who judge these things.
At a combined 170 seats for Amici’s and Bombolini and with 30 staff, the restaurants represented fine dining for Winnipeggers for a very long time. Parking was always an issue at its off Broadway location. The restored heritage building that it occupied had no parking of it own and relied on street parking in front of and beside it. In three decades most Winnipeg residents will acknowledge there are more cars and traffic to deal with everywhere we go. It is easy to be discouraged if you are going to the ballet or theatre and you end up parking a great distance in January cold.
Owner Brian Knight acknowledged that a change of location was probably warranted as many as five years ago. However, would have been no guarantee of success. Asahi Japanese restaurant down the street left Broadway for Charleswood and lasted a few years before shuttering. Dubrovnik on Assiniboine shuttered when its land became too valuable. They didn’t attempt a move as part of the charm was the heritage location.
There has been a lot discussion about the closing. Fond memories, worry of an end of an era and speculation on dining and the direction it is going have all been hot topics. It is true that it is an end of an era but it is not the end dining on Broadway dining. It should be noted that right next door to Amici’s is Cafe 22 serving Italian dining with lovely windows to the street. While true, it is a different experience it can be said that competition played as much of a role in the closure.
Amici’s was open for lunch as well but in 30 years the competition from food trucks on Broadway was legendary. The politicians, lawyers, civil servants and others wander up and down the street for good food experiences. The storefront eateries that have opened have been Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Subway etc. Oh Doughnuts and Fools and Horses have found a niche as well.
In the last five years something else has changed the food landscape. It is the Winnipeg Jets or rather let’s say live sports. Many places have changed their dining to a grill or pub style restaurant from casual to fine dining places. In short, the flat screen TV and high definition quality picture and more sports have transformed restaurants. In some respects, it has killed nightclubs as well because the mingling experience minus the dancing is part of the new dynamic.
In the last 30 years we have seen the evolution of a chain restaurant style that is unique to Canada when compared to the United States. The Keg, Moxies and Earl’s have evolved from their more casual counterparts in the U.S. but less white tablecloth than a fine dining restaurants. To be truthful, there are few if any restaurant groups in the U.S. who have carved out this niche. When Amici’s started out The Keg was still comparable to more casual fare in the U.S. Since then it is a pricier and more evolved dining room.
Winnipeg has probably never seen a greater time in terms of restaurant diversity than it has now. It is extremely competitive and some locally owned as well as national chains will fall. Just this week Barley Bros at Polo Park Empress announced they are closing and will eventually move downtown. This would seem counter intuitive since their location has parking now and they will move to where parking is not free and harder to find. What it does say is that the market supports one idea over the other and you have to be fleet footed.
Will something move into Amici’s old spot. That is very good possibility. The major investment of having a kitchen, washrooms and space laid out has already been made. Everyone should watch the space since the next big thing might be on the way.
This has been an editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations