The owners of a former pub in Coquitlam are banking on foodies rather than beer drinkers to bring some new life to a busy corner.
Located at the busy crossroads of Brunette Avenue and Lougheed Highway, Bar + Restaurant Nellos opened at 925 Brunette Ave. in Maillardville, bringing Italian food to a community known for its francophone heritage.
With a range of dining options, from burrata and prosciutto antipasti to veal marsala and ghiottone (minced chicken, brandy, cream, parmigiano), the new restaurant aims to tempt palates of people living in the growing neighbourhood of southwest Coquitlam.
And so far the response has been great, said Malia May, who was working front of house on Thursday (March 3) as the restaurant entered its second week of business.
"It warms our hearts," said May.
The May family, which operates the restaurant as management consultants, has a lengthy pedigree in the restaurant business, having owned the iconic Rossini's Jazz Bar on Yew Street in Kitsilano for 18 years before closing it in 2018.
According to May, the sauces — and the name of the new restaurant — are inspired by Nello Foschi of Rossini's, and subsequently elevated by head Chef Adam Foster.
Adding to the team is Chris Olson, a bartender from Port Coquitlam.
In its first weekend, May said business was brisk; reservations are recommended.
It's clear the restaurant has been long-awaited, on a day in early February the Tri-City News visited after reading about it on a Coquitlam community Facebook page, there was a sign on the door stating: "Not open yet."
There are a number of other restaurants on Brunette Avenue, including
- That Place 4 Pizza and Pasta, at 932 Brunette Ave.
- Fat Tuna Japanese Restaurant at 931 Brunette Ave.
- My Greek Taverna at 946 Brunette Ave.
The City of Coquitlam's Things to Do website has a search tool for Coquitlam restaurants and encourages people to "shop local."
The change in business comes as the city is reviewing housing for the southwest Coquitlam neighbourhood and planning to add more residents to the area.
The building is owned by Ed and Tamara Wong and was previously the Lantern Public House.
And, for many years, it was The French Quarter Pub.
As a pub, the location was not far from Woody's Pub at 935 Brunette Ave.
For the Maillardville neighbourhood, the two pubs were beacons to the many workers in the southwest Coquitlam area, formerly home to Fraser Mills.
Still, the new Italian restaurant changes up things a bit.
Inside the restaurant, warm lighting casts a welcoming glow to the tables, the bar occupies a prominent location and the original stamped tin ceiling gives the restaurant a heritage feel.
May said her family has been in the restaurant business for 40 years and is enjoying the opportunity to share Italian food with the Coquitlam community.
"We love people and what we do," May said.