Last visited: October 8, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Strathcona)
Address: 1020 Main Street
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 5 (based on what I tried)
- Sister restaurant to Refuel
- Specializes in Northern Italian cuisine
- Contemporary Italian food
- Casual fine dining
- Sophisticated, but comfortable
- Great for wine and appies
- Moderately priced
- Wine bar
- Paul Croteau desserts
- Dinner reservations recommended
- Sat-Sun brunch: 11:30am-2:30pm
- Daily lunch 11:20am-2:30pm
- Daily dinner 5pm-late
**Recommendations: Crispy Ceci, Tagliatelle and if you order a pizza the Salsiccia. The Albacore Tuna Crudo, Salumi (house cured meats) come highly recommended and I think the Duck Confit Ravioli and Sloping Hill Pork as well, but I haven’t tried these items.
Campagnolo has been on my radar for the last year or two and I finally got to check it out. It’s always nominated and sometimes even wins the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Award for “Vancouver’s Best Casual Italian” so I always wanted to try it.
The location is quite odd and it’s kind of located in the “ghetto” of Vancouver near Chinatown and beside a backpacker’s hostel. It’s a pretty grungy area which makes Campagnolo the hidden gem on the block. It’s definitely a local favourite and it was packed on a Friday night with a line up at the door. The atmosphere is modern, intimate and cozy, yet casual and approachable for small or large groups. It reminds me of the secret private kitchen in Hong Kong see here.
The food was more contemporary Italian than traditional Italian so I wouldn’t call it authentic. Most the dishes are rich focusing on Northern Italian ingredients and cooking styles with a few innovative twists. The menu has an eclectic and West Coast feel and it’s affordable too which is great. They call themselves “rustic” and I think it’s a bit finer than that. It’s not necessarily hearty and they’re minimal with their ingredients but everything is fined tuned are carefully prepared. Campagnolo is the definition of a little goes a long way and overall I was very impressed with the food and I can’t wait to go back.
Note: I got the feeling that they clued into me as a food blogger (taking photos etc) so to be fair I’m not going to “rate” the service. Even before I took photos, they were still very accommodating though.
On the table:
- I loved these! These are long cheese straws made with Cheddar cheese and they’re crusted with crispy bits of baked Parmesan or Cheddar cheese and coarse salt.
- Although they’re made in house I wish they were right out of the oven because they could have been crispier. It was in between bread and a cracker and I would have preferred the crunchiness of a cracker.
- Chickpeas, chilies, mint, citrus $8.50
- This is one of their most popular items and it’s a must try appetizer. I loved it!
- It was a light snack that was served warm and although light in texture, they do get a bit filling.
- It was so unique and unlike anything I’ve seen or tried before. It seemed more Middle Eastern than Italian and it was very unexpected, modern and fusion.
- It almost tasted like spiced nuts but instead of nuts it was chick peas.
- They flash fry the chick peas and lightly dress them with aromatic seasonings and olive oil which absorbed so well to create great flavour.
- The chick pea shells separated from the actual peas and they were like crispy peanut skins that tasted great!
- It was savoury, incredibly nutty and coated with fruity olive oil and some fresh lemon juice for tang.
- It was peppery, slightly spicy from chili flakes and fresh from the chopped mint.
- I think it would be even better if there was something sweet in it, like raisins or a drizzle of honey.
- This a is a side order. $6
- I’ve never had gnocchi like this before. It tastes like slices of creamy cheesy polenta patties or soft fluffy cream cheese mousse patties.
- As “gnocchi” I didn’t really prefer it, but if they called it “cheesy semolina patties” (which is pretty much what they were) I would have accepted it. It was a bit misleading although we were warned. It didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t really gnocchi. It reminded me of the “gnudi” from Vita Bella Ristorante.
- It was pan-fried slices of semolina which is a wheat flour, but it comes across as polenta or corn meal. It’s not really crispy but there is a crust.
- It’s very rich and cheesy with a pretty strong egg yolk flavour. They’re very indulgent and I’m glad there was a fresh tangy cherry tomato sauce to help break it up a bit.
- Pork ragú, basil, pecorino romano cheese $14/$19
- This is one of their most popular pasta dishes and it’s been on the menu since they’ve opened.
- The $14 portion was a bit small, but I guess it was a “primi” before the main course. At least the ingredients were high and it tastes fantastic!
- Rather than a traditional Italian beef ragu, they switched it up by using pork it was even better. It’s a super rich ragu made with juicy shredded pork that’s stewed right into this tangy and sweet tomato sauce. It was almost like tender pulled pork and each shred was so soft, fine and flavourful and it held on to each strand of tagliatelle.
- The Tagliatelle pasta noodles are made in house and they were quite firm and perfectly cooked to al dente. I just didn’t like that the end of the noodles were dried out and hard.
- I loved the parm cheese, but they forgot the basil and it could have really used it for flavour and presentation. It just looked plain otherwise.
- Fennel sausage, arugula, parmigiano reggiano, chilies $15
- I wasn’t crazy about the pizza although they were very good. I had to go for this one because they make the fennel sausage in house so it came highly recommended.
- The fennel sausage was juicy, soft and tender with a slight kick. They were delicious, but they skimped on it and there was only a 1-2 very tiny balls of it on each slice.
- It’s a rather light pizza that’s easy on the sauce and cheese, but it’s very fresh and still flavorful. It’s cheesy without much cheese which means they use a high quality nicely aged cheese
See! It deflates so much, to a more traditional thin crust pizza. It was almost like a tandoori naan or flat bread when it first came out. I know it looks oily, but it actually wasn’t that bad and they use excellent olive oil.
I’m don’t think it’s a brick or firewood pizza oven. If it is, it’s not hot enough. although the crust was quite crispy it had no leoparding on the bottom so I didn’t get that firewood charred taste which makes a great crust.
They give you a side plate of pizza toppings. It’s all FRESH! Parmesan, Oregano and chili flakes.I went crazy for this freshly baked Oregano. It was crispy and made in house and simply perfect. It added so much flavour to the pizza and has a mild licorice taste and enhanced the fennel flavour in the sausage.
This may sounds bizarre, but I added the Crispy Ceci on top of my pizza and it was even better! It added a nuttiness to the pizza making the flavours very dynamic but not overwhelming. The combination was great.
All desserts are made by Pastry Chef Paul Croteau. He also just opened his own confections shop upstairs Campagnolo. See my post for his confections here. I passed on dessert for once because I just had 3 scoops of gelato from Bella Gelateria right before dinner and was heading back after dinner to try the Persian flavours like Saffron Rosewater and Pistachio! What better may to end the night then with Vancouver’s best gelato. However I will 100% be back to Campagnolo to try their olive oil cake as well as other dishes.