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'I’m not crying, you’re crying': Downtown Vancouver restaurant announces 'bittersweet' closure

"Restaurant ownership — and the financial viability of small neighbourhood joints — just ain’t what it used to be."

A decade-long chapter has come to a close for a much-loved Vancouver restaurant family, as the owners of Autostrada announced Saturday (Jan. 20) that they are closing down the Pender Street location before month's end.

"Though it is bittersweet, we have decided to close this beloved location of the Autostrada family of restaurants — the lease is up and the reality is that restaurant ownership — and the financial viability of small neighbourhood joints — just ain’t what it used to be," write the operators in a heartfelt announcement shared to social media.

The location is 350 W Pender St, and it spent the first half of its life as Cinara.

Cinara - named among Vancouver's best Italian restaurants for the 2018 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards - was the venture of Chef Lucais Syme and business partner Dustin Dockendorf, who as 2018 morphed into 2019, turned the restaurant into an Autostrada outpost, after finding success with the original on Main Street.

A couple of years later and the Autostrada family grew again, adding a location in the Vancouver House development downtown, which opened in early 2021.

"Over the decade, Autostrada’s downtown osteria became the stuff of neighbourhood dreams: unfussy Italian fare, loyal guests, and a legendary team of some of the city’s top chefs and manages," describe owners in the Pender location's closing notice.

Autostrada is known for its casual Italian fare with laid-back "come as you are" vibes and top-notch hospitality. The Downtown location's menu includes popular dishes like meatballs, anchovies on focaccia, bucatino cacio e pepe, and a house special filled pasta that is always changing.

Keen-eyed Netflix fans may recognize the onetime Cinara as Sasha's (Ali Wong) restaurant, Judy's Way, in Always Be My Maybe.

The Pender location of Autostrada was listed for sale last fall.

However, while the Downtown Vancouver Autostrada is bidding farewell this month, owners say "it's not all sad news." 

That's because they "have a new Autostrada in the works in the next year or so."

No information has been made available about the location yet. "Stay tuned for that," urge the Autostrada team.

Autostrada on West Pender will offer its final service on Jan. 27.

"Thank you, Vancouver," concludes the farewell message, with a postscript: "I’m not crying, you’re crying."

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