WHAT’S IN STORE: Transplants bring Mediterranean flavour to Fort Langley

A catering and bistro has been moved from White Rock to the village.

The newest eatery in the village of Fort Langley was set to open late this week, and its owners promise it will be something a little unique and different – by local standards.

The Rustic Gourmet, which I mentioned a few weeks back in one of my columns, is a bistro opening on the corner of Mavis Avenue and River Road by a pair of recent Fort Langley transplants.

Travellers at heart, Rustic owners Simone Hurwitz and Enrico (Kiko) Campani, opted to put down roots in Fort Langley 18 months back, and now they’re bringing their passion for food and European culture to the table at this new restaurant.

“It’s not going to be the place you go to get some burgers and fries,” Hurwitz explained.

It’s going to be more European-style eatery, she noted.

“We’re never going to have a very long menu,” she said, noting that there will be a small variety of different fresh seasonal dishes based on what is available from the local farmers.

Bringing together what they love

The couple migrated from Italy to Canada 10 years ago, landing in White Rock.

They set up a catering business a year later and worked it as a coffee shop in that community’s curling rink during the fall and winter, and focused on weddings and corporate dinners during the spring and summer.

For several years, however, they’d drive back and forth to Fort Langley to deliver and pick up their eldest daughters from Langley Fine Arts School, Hurwitz explained.

During those four years, they admittedly fell in love with Fort Langley, and sought to settle here.

Naturally, they loved the idea of living and working in the same community, so back in September they secured what Hurwitz described as the perfect bistro site in the village – complete with what she’s transformed into a rustic Italian style courtyard.

“My mom said I never knew how to do anything simply. She was right. We’ve turned [this place] upside down… It hasn’t been easy, because we did a lot.”

But after months of extensive renovations – and several months of working out of a rental commercial kitchen – it’s all done, and they’re ready to throw open the doors on the new Rustic Gourmet this week.

Diverse backgrounds

Hurwitz was born in South Africa and grew up in Isreal. Kiko was born in Italy. They met in Isreal, and spent years travelling.

“We’re travellers. We love travelling,” she said, admitting that’s what ultimately inspired them to get into catering and ultimately motivated them to open the Rustic Gourmet restaurant.

“Food is part of everyone’s culture… We found that, wherever we travelled. Now, we missed all these flavours,” Hurwitz said. “And we’ve been missing that sense of neighbourhood, that sense of community.”

Asked repeatedly what kind of food they will serve, she replies “It’s Mediterranean food… it touches on all the places we’ve lived and visited.”

That’s what she hopes to recreate inside the new Rustic Gourmet, which she feels will mesh perfectly with the village vibe.

“It’s a prime spot” for creating their vision, she said, noting people can hear the train, see the river, and sit together or separate and enjoy a drink and some food made from scratch.

“Fort Langley is a unique place,” she said, noting they’ll be starting by serving simple lunches, coffee, and all kinds of pastries.

Soon, she hopes to expand to offering brunches and tappas. Then, as they get settled, they’ll move into dinners.

“We have ideas of doing thing differently,” she said, anxious to introduce the European eatery to Langley.

While 90 per cent of their business in past has been focused on catering, she predicts that will shift with the new facilities. She expects catering will account for about 60 per cent of their business, with the other 40 per cent focused on in-house service.

Keeping it in the family

While at peak times they’ve had some 30 or more employees working between various catering jobs and the bistro, Hurwitz said it is definitely a family business – with the entire clan involved at different times.

While Hurwitz expects she will be hidden away much of the time in the kitchen, she said her hydraulic engineer hubby, Kiko, will be on the floor working as operations manager.

Their oldest daughters, who grew up in the kitchen, are now living in Spain and Montreal, but help out with projects such as social media and photography.

And their youngest, who is a music major at the fine arts school will be bussing tables and taking her turn as a barista.

Check out the Rustic Gourmet, and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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FEAST FINISHED

In the meantime, I told you about this new facility a few weeks back, when I was alerting readers to the new Fort Feast.

Well, that has wrapped up, too, and promoter Trevor Friesen thinks it might become an annual culinary event for the village.

“This was a new experience for me, planning an event like this. There were obviously positives and negatives I’ll need to look into for next year if this becomes an annual event,” Friesen said.

“There’s always something happening in the Fort nowadays,” and the feast event was designed as an unofficial competition to draw people down to test out new and innovative dishes at some of the local eateries.

It was a month-long dine out event featuring Rail and River Bistro, Mangia e Scappa Italian Foods. Trading Post Brewing, Eighteen 27 and Fort Pub & Grill.

Mangia e Scappa took the two top spots with their Saba…zza and their Risotto e Funghi. Trading Post came in third with their Rye Amber Ale Braised Short Rib.

“I think overall, the event was a success for the first of its kind in Fort Langley,” Friesen said.

“If we do it again next year, I would hope for support from the BIA, and more participation from surrounding restaurants.”

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