Il Secondo Casino
Thanks to Kegan for drawing my attention to this article in today's Dominion Post: the Bresolin family wants to reopen Il Casino. Since the closure was announced in July, and the sale of the building confirmed in September, many Wellingtonians have felt a sense of loss, so this is indeed good news.
One thing's for sure, though: it won't be on the existing site. According to the article, "Globe Holdings director Andrew Fawcet said he had yet to decide what to do with it. Because both buildings had been completely gutted reopening a restaurant on the site was not an option, he said." That sounds slightly odd, since supposedly the buildings were originally gutted in order to strengthen and refurbish them with the express purpose of reopening the restaurant. Hmm. Having paid a record price for the site, they are unlikely to build anything that doesn't maximise the return, and though a restaurant could definitely work on the ground floor of a new apartment building here (as 88 just down the road works quite nicely), it won't be Il Casino.
So, "Son of Il Casino" will have to be in a new location, and while Enzo and co are looking around, nothing's been decided yet. This wouldn't be a WellUrban post without some wild and baseless speculation, though, so here's a few thoughts about some suitable venues.
The former Neat site at 201 Cuba St has been a bit of a Bermuda triangle for restaurants (Orsini's, Mammy Flo's, Raja, Montelupo...), but the building itself has the combination of grandeur and homeliness that would suit Il Casino more than its previous tenants. On the other hand, it's probably far too small, and it's already being renovated by someone else. A snippet in the DomPost back in July said that the someone else in question was John McGrath (a restaurateur who's had almost as much of an impact on Wellington's nightlife and dining scene as Remiro Bresolin), though there were "For Lease" signs in the window long after that article, so it may have changed hands since then.
A larger and grander old building that would suit Il Casino is what is offically known as the Dr Henry Pollen House, though until early this year it was best known as the home of Bouquet Garni. The house may be more French than Italian, but it certainly worked as a fine dining restaurant and has a long and (ahem) colourful history that would be perfect for Il Casino's combination of old-school glamour and hedonism. However, it seems to be undergoing the world's slowest renovation, and another DomPost snippet suggested that it was the other McGrath brother (Danny) in charge this time, with plans for a Monteith's "gastro pub" (please, no more schist!).
But speaking of grand old knocking shops, the old Mayfair on Ghuznee St springs to mind as another great spot. Not only does it have an eccentric grandeur and a location that can only get better next year once Ghuznee St ceases to be State Highway 1, it's large and rambling with (presumably) a warren of old rooms that would suit Il Casino's need for a range of dining spaces with varying levels of intimacy. If the Bresolins want to introduce a more casual option to complement the fine dining, then Glover Park could certainly benefit from a café opening up on that corner. It's been under wraps for a while now, with no clear sign of what's to become of it, so it might be available.
... and in a spooky coincidence, while I was literally in the middle of writing this post, one of my spies told me that the Mayfair building is indeed very likely to become the new Il Casino. Given that the DomPost article quotes Enzo as saying they want to reopen "in the very near future", we may not have long to wait before Wellington's favourite marriage proposal venue is reborn.