When Ryan, Shelley and Jason Armstrong bought 164 Langside five years ago, the plan was to open a wood-fired pizzeria. After doing all the work to meet code requirements, the 100-year old building had no room for a pizza oven.
“Pizza place gone, and we did small plates instead,” Ryan Armstrong says.
The owners have just been rolling with the punches since then.
A similar story is behind the nickname the business has already found since opening in the fall of 2017: “Langside Grocery.”
“I was demoing the first floor, and I found a wrapper from like 90 years ago of stuff that was sold (in the building) when it was Langside Grocery,” Armstrong says. (Overall), “the building really dictated the concept.”
Originally from Winnipeg, the co-owners reunited here to pursue opening a restaurant. One of them, Jason Armstrong, is a Red Seal chef.
“Restaurants are kind of in our DNA,” Armstrong says.
He fell in love with the building, and bought it the first day it was on the market.
“We almost couldn’t pay for it,” he says. “We almost lost it. It was that close. We managed to ... beg and borrow.”
Armstrong says starting a new business was harder than he thought it would be.
“If you’re buying an older building, make sure you’re doing some due diligence on what your concept is,” he warns. “It was a hard lesson learned.”
In the end, it all came together. The new restaurant is a neighbourhood fixture.
“We really wanted it to be a local for the people of West Broadway and Wolseley,” he says.
Armstrong says that the aesthetic of the restaurant, which is actually called Corticelli, is European flavour mixed with a prairie-1920s vibe.
“We wanted to capture an old-world, classy (locale), where you would go for food and a glass of wine,” Armstrong says. “We wanted a room that felt warm, comfortable and familiar from the moment you walked in.”
As for the food, Armstrong says that the duck confit tarte flambée is a bestseller.
“It has duck confit, fig jam, toasted almonds, arugula and Sriracha,” he says. “The charcuterie board is also up there in sales.”
The menu is French in influence, pairing traditional flavours with locally-sourced ingredients. (This is) “due in part to the French influence in Winnipeg (and Jason’s love for French cooking),” Armstrong says.
He says that their goal is to be “as local as possible.” This is reflected in Corticelli’s list of food producers, which includes Deluca’s, Tall Grass Bakery, Beeproject Apiaries and Hearts and Roots. He says the restaurant has been contacting new suppliers and local farmers for their upcoming menu.
Armstrong says he’s flattered to be in the running alongside restaurants like Clementine and Forth.
“That’s kind of humbling actually.”
Published in Volume 72, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 30, 2017)