Passenger Pick of the Month
Agua Restaurant & Lounge
In just over two years, Agua has quickly established itself as one of Cayman’s best restaurants, winning the overall top pick in January’s 2012 Taste of Cayman.
Italian owners Cristiano Vicentini and Walter Fajette became great friends while working together at Calypso Grill, and then achieved their dream of creating a successful restaurant on Seven Mile beach. As this month’s Passenger Pick of the Month, we wanted to learn more about the story behind Agua, so recently we caught up with owners Walter and Cristiano.
PP: So…two Italian guys open a restaurant, but this doesn’t feel like a typical Italian restaurant. Tell us about it.
WF: In planning Agua, we saw that there are so many Italian restaurants on the island, and many of the menu items are the same. But we wanted to do something different. So, even though we are both Italians, we decided to call our restaurant a very “un” Italian name and broaden the cuisine so it extends out much further than Italy.
PP: Absolutely, this truly has a much more international feel.
WF: We have chefs from all over the world: Canada, Dominican Republic, Peru, Austria, Malaysia, and Italy all bringing their particular knowledge and skills to the table and therefore infusing our cuisine with a wide range of flavors.
CV:Last year, we brought on Jonathan from Montreal, Canada, and Paolo from Florence, Italy. We already had an incredibly strong team, each of whom brings their own expertise to the plate, but the addition of these two chefs took us to another level.
PP: So with that wide of a variety of backgrounds in your chefs, how do you design your menu?
CV: It’s exciting because the menu is always evolving. We established ourselves with some “must haves” on the menu and these items will not change; however we are constantly tweaking the menu: adding new dishes and maybe taking out some dishes that we do not feel work so well. Collaboration between all the chefs is the key for the creation of our dinner menu.
WF: Cris and I are the creators of our menu. The reason why we have such a multiethnic kitchen is because this allows us to come up with many different authentic dishes, done by the chef with the right experience. One example is the ceviche: we wanted to have ceviches on our menu but in the beginning we were not happy and we decided to hire a Peruvian chef (ceviche is originally from Peru) and now we think we have the best ceviche on island.
PP: We agree, your ceviche is outstanding. In fact, we understand you were the first to bring it to Cayman, so thanks! Also your Tuna tartar is delicious! Who heads up your kitchen?
CV: Our kitchen is headed up by Executive Chef Jonathan Dionne, he is from Montreal Canada, where he attended culinary school. After few years working in Quebec, Australia and England, he moved to Grand Cayman four years ago. Jonathan quickly integrated with our Austrian Sous Chef Marc Benkoe; and Yango our Malesian chef, who has over 40 years experience in the kitchen. You definitely don’t want to miss one of his mouth watering Asian specials.
PP: You are known for your outstanding fresh seafood. How did that develop?
WF: We always believed quality is the key of any restaurant’s success. We always buy the freshest local catch or the top quality from the market.
PP: Your Sunday brunch is something that many of our passengers continue to rave about.
CV:Agua’s brunch reflects our extended regular menu, and goes from typically Italian recipes like Homemade Lasagna, Carpaccio, Seafood Salad, Cold Cuts and Cheeses to Asian dishes like Beef RanDang, Hummus, Babaganus, Sushi and Sashimi. We also serve Peruvian Ceviche and Tiradito, Blue Point Oysters, Spanish Paella, Beef Wellington and many other dishes. Do not get too full!!! You must try our homemade Dessert: Tiramisu, Chocolate Mousse, Fruit Tart, Bomboloni, Semifreddo, Profiteroles and Fresh Fruit.
PP: So what do you like to do when you can find some time off?
CV: I love to spend time with my beautiful wife and our 8 month old son, Sergio.
WF: For me it is easy to find me up at Barker, kitesurfing. In fact, I love kitesurfing so much that I also own Kitesurf Cayman, a kitesurf school.
PP: We were at the Taste of Cayman in January and saw that, wow, you won the overall People’s Choice award! What an incredible honor!
WF: It was a crazy time! Estimates tell us that about 5,000 people attended the 2012 Taste of Cayman. Yes, we’re very excited and proud of the recognition. But the true credit really belongs to the entire Agua team. They are a fantastic group of people!
PP: You mentioned your team, your staff. They seem to share your same unique sense of warmth and hospitality.
WF: That’s very important to us. We’re very proud of our staff. When we hire new people we want to make sure they understand our ideas. If we think they wouldn’t fit with the rest of the team, we don’t hire them. Competition is continually getting tougher in Cayman’s restaurant business, but, judging by our happy customers, we think we are on the right track at Agua.
CV: To show how important our Customers are, Agua provides every day a full Gluten Free, Vegetarian and Vegan Menu. To assure that top level of customer service, one of the two of us is always here. People know they can talk directly to us. When we opened in 2009, people thought we were crazy, but we’re happy to keep doing what we’re doing. The goal is to create great food, and for people to leave happy.
And from what our passenger’s tell us, they certainly are!
Agua Restaurant & Lounge