28 February 2022
The Italian restaurateurs behind Agua, Cristiano Vincentini and Walter Fajette, began their long-term friendship and business partnership as colleagues at Calypso Grill.
The two became close friends on the job and they shared a dream of opening their own seafood restaurant.
In 2009, that dream became a reality when Agua Restaurant & Lounge opened in Galleria Plaza. The restaurant offered an international menu rooted in Italian and Peruvian cuisine. “Working in Cayman’s restaurant industry, the question we were getting almost daily from tourists was ‘Where can we go to eat seafood tomorrow night?’" says Fajette. "So we really wanted to create a seafood restaurant. Obviously, our Italian roots had to be there, but we felt there were too many Italian restaurants already on the island.”
During a trip to Peru, Fajette had the idea to specialise in ceviche.
“I thought Peruvian-style ceviche could be the new sushi," he says. "At the time, it wasn’t very well known. Now, it’s one of the most popular dishes on island.”
After finding success and building a loyal following at their first location, Fajette and Vincentini made the bold decision to relocate their restaurant to Camana Bay in 2018. Last year, they opened up Next Door, a lounge located next to the restaurant.
“Moving to Camana Bay was a difficult decision, but we decided that in the old location, Agua couldn’t grow," says Fajette. "Camana Bay was a great location to improve in every aspect. We rebranded and changed the logo, the menu, the uniforms, the décor, we invested money in the wine list. Business improved with the move and the team from Camana Bay really believed in us.”
After consulting with a chef from South Carolina, Fajette and Vincentini began sourcing the highest quality ingredients for the new Agua, buying organic flour for their homemade pasta, local produce, wild caught fish and grass-fed meat without antibiotics or hormones.
“We are very proud to serve you and your kids what we would serve to our kids,” Fajette says.
Fulfilment comes in different ways for the duo.
“It’s not just the money; it’s creating something that people love," says Fajette. "I feel very proud of what we created.”
“For me, the reward is our reputation within the industry," he says. "We take good care of our staff.”
While the high turnover rate of hospitality staff and competitiveness of the industry have proven challenging, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fajette and Vincentini say they are proud of their ability to adapt.
Throughout it all, their passion to operate a restaurant remains.
"You meet people from all over the world with different perspectives, religions, culture," says Fajette. "That’s what I love about this job. I think it’s a job that everybody should do. It opens your mind.”
This article was originally published in the February 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.