The history of one of Victoria’s best restaurants
Zambri’s opened in October 1999 at 911 Yates Street, an unconventional location at the back of a strip mall between a drug store and a super market. In the early days it was a simple operation. Peter was the chef, Jo took care of the front of house and Calen was in charge of business development.
The goal was to create a simple trattoria-like restaurant focused on serving a casual lunch. Little they know that not only they were soon serving one the best lunch in Victoria but they also had just created what would become one of Victoria’s best restaurant! The incredibly well prepared Italian food and efficient service created favourable word of mouth and over time the obscure little eatery gained highly acclaimed industry recognition such as GOLD Best Casual Italian Restaurant Vancouver Magazine, Victoria Chef Of the Year, EAT Magazine and The Urban Peasant James Barber called it the “Nicest little Italian restaurant in BC. Probably in Canada. Terrific food.”
In 2001 the restaurant expanded to include a small bar, a private function room and twenty more seats. With the addition of Frances Sidhe, a trained sommelier, Zambri’s dinner service galvanized the restaurant and dinner service was added. All of this set the stage for a place where people could sit and drink a glass of prosecco, people watch, try something new or a dish they have come to love. Everyone at Zambri’s seems to know each other or feel as if they do.
When the time came to renew Zambri’s lease for the second time Peter, Jo and Calen had decisions to make. While they each had passion, pride and loyalty for their creation, after ten years in the restaurant business they were not sure whether Zambri’s was ending or something new was to start. They were at a crossroads and needed to make a decision whether to evolve and grow, or not.
Many late night discussions and debates filled with laughter and some tears, the business partners, family and friends recommitted themselves to a renewed vision for Zambri’s. The addition of long time employee Louis Vacca as partner and the decision to move into the brand new Atrium Building sealed the deal. While the old Zambri’s location may have been rustic and unconventional, the new location at the energy efficient LEED Gold certified Atrium Building just a few blocks away from the original location creates a more symbiotic relationship between Zambri’s environmentally-conscious food creations and the space it inhabits. Finally, the outside matches the inside.