After eight and a half years in Galleria Plaza, the owners of Agua Restaurant & Lounge felt it was time for a change. On April 28, it closed its doors for good at the Galleria and this summer will reopen in a new location in Camana Bay, in the space formerly occupied by Ortanique restaurant.
One of those owners, Cristiano Vincentini, says the relocation has nothing to do with poor business results at the Galleria.
“Agua has been a success since its second year,” he says. Its other owner, Walter Fajette, says the impetus for the move was simply a matter of projecting the future.
“We always try to look at the market and where it’s going,” he says. “Looking ahead five years, we think it will be better to be in Camana Bay.”
Part of the reasoning comes from what he and Vincentini have learned since opening their second restaurant, Catch Restaurant & Lounge, at Morgan’s Harbour in December 2014.
“When you’re on the ocean, you get a different clientele,” says Fajette. In Camana Bay, Agua will be on the Crescent, with indoor seating as well as seating along the harbour.
The harbour front seating is expected to be popular in the cooler and drier winter months, but Vincentini knows that when it rains, patrons will want to be inside. What they’ll find in Agua’s renovated interior is a cleanly designed space with more light and better flow than it had previously.
“We wanted the indoor dining room to be attractive and welcoming,” he says. “That’s where most of our investment [into the relocation] went.”
OLD AND NEW
When Agua reopens, some of what made it so successful at the Galleria will remain, some will be enhanced and new things will be added.
Although its owners are from Italy and its menu features some Italian favourites, Fajette says Agua isn’t purely an Italian restaurant.
“We like to expand a little beyond Italian,” he says, pointing to the fact that Peruvian-style ceviche is one of Agua’s specialities that will carry over to the new location. “There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Cayman, but they’re not seafood restaurants.”
Fajette also notes that Agua’s cuisine has always had a local influence that goes beyond fresh fish to fresh produce. Agua’s executive chef R.J. Dye learned his craft in Charleston, South Carolina, with menus focused on seasonal local ingredients.
“The farm-to-table scenario is where I came from,” he says, adding that he is excited about the ability to purchase fresh produce at the weekly Farmers & Artisans Market at Camana Bay. Dye says the kitchen will make its own pasta at the new location, avoiding inexpensive commercial ingredients and using organic flours and a hand-operated pasta machine.
From a beverage perspective, Agua was one of the first restaurants in the Cayman Islands to embrace the craft cocktail culture and that will carry over to the new location. Agua also has one of the better wine lists on Grand Cayman and is one of the few restaurants on the island that have multiple sommeliers on staff. The wine service will get even better at Camana Bay.
“We will be increasing the wine inventory,” says Fajette.
Agua will continue to host various events like its popular Sommelier Standoff dinner series.
Some other decisions will be made based on market research and customer demand. For example, while Agua will be open Sunday lunchtimes, Fajette said he and Vincentini haven’t decided if the restaurant would serve brunch, or if it did, what type of brunch — buffet or a la carte — it would serve.
One thing both owners would like to see is a more European approach to dining, where customers come for a leisurely, multi-course meal, enjoying the food and beverages in the company of family or friends.
“We want Agua to be the place you come
to sit, stay a while and have a great time,” says Vincentini.