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
It came out from the oven and it was served with a rather thick and puffy crust. However it deflated as it cooled down. The crust is actually thicker than normal for a thin crust pizza.
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.
The tagliatelle is SO overpriced. I think the gnoochi is a generous appetizer, looks good…I think Campagnolo is trending towards the Vancouver dining scene of small portions vs traditional Italian hearty fare.
@Bow – The tagliatelle was pricier, but it was really good. The pork ragu sauce was really well done and carefully prepared with great ingredients so I can see why the price. I mean of course you pay for the ambiance too here. I like the small portion option so I can order more :), but it does add up quickly.
The food looks really delicious and the place looks cozy too. By the way, I found a food social networking site that has so much to offer to its food loving members. It even has iPhone/iPad application for food enthusiasts like us.
they are overpriced but good. I went in a big group and it cost me $60 because of the set menu. I didn’t even get to each much because we shared a lot of it. Small portions and such. I really like Nuba, there was a lemon lentil dish that reminded me of the fried cauliflower dish from NUBA. They are affordable and really delicious. I recommend the fried cauliflower wrap around ($10) super gooood.
@Pat Cool! Thanks for the tip and thanks for commenting!
@Miss Soo – There used to be a Lebanese place that was even better than Nuba! It was called Mona’s (not the one on Denman)… but they used to be on West Broadway and it was awesome! Yes these chick pea things are great! It is a casual fine dining restaurant though so I expected the smaller portions and higher prices. Sucks that you didn’t get to eat that much though!
Ever use ground wild boar in a pasta sauce? It’s so intense and flavorful…it’s better than than the trinity of ground veal/beef/pork.
The crispy ceci are my absolute favourite!
@Bow – no I haven’t! But it sounds delicious! I’ve never cooked with wild boar? Is it affordable too?
@Sheryl – mine too! Thanks for commenting!
In a city full of wonderful dining experiences it is sad when you come across a restaurant that managed to open with everything wrong. I know you are all like me and enjoy trying a new and exciting place that you have never been to…..that is what a group of 10 of us did last night for my friends going away party. There is too much choice out there! So save your money or invest it in a more deserving restaurant than Campagnolo on Main St. You could probably get a better meal next door at the Ivanhoe (no joke). Now before I tell you what made our experience unacceptable let’s go through the basics:
Atmosphere: This place looks like it would be in crack town. Oh wait – it is. When I was about 15 years old I decorated my room in my mom’s house. It was one of the first ventures/investments I did when I started working for the first time and was excited to have money to spend on making my room unique. Well, let’s just say I named that room “the beige room” for more than one reason – everything was beige and boring, It had no wow factor, it was very utilitarian, had bad lighting, no little touches and was in general a snooze to walk into. Well, my room was actually decorated more invitingly than this place. Think, hospital meets NYC subway station. And good luck finding the place – not that you would want to. Their signage faces the alley? WTF? They don’t want anyone to go there either. Pardon me, there is a teeny tiny sign at the front door, it is blue illuminated. Now, being a science major I won’t bore you with the details about the speed of light….but blue is on the slow side(which makes for a dimmer light that doesn’t travel as far) – just like there kitchen.
Service: I had a wonderful 12 year serving career and if I served a table like we were served last night I would have been embarrassed – let alone fired. We were ordering bottles of champagne and we were drinking them rather fast. I would say that I sat for more than half of my meal with an empty glass in front of me. Let me stress that we were not ordering individual –take-a-long-time-making-them-behind-the-bar-and-the-server-has-so-many-tables-she-can’t-keep-up drinks – no. BOTTLE service. A lovely finishing touch: I watched the servers take everyone’s jackets and coat check them behind the hostess table and then 1 by 1 as guests left I saw them lingering around the front desk waiting for their coats…….and then when no one would acknowledge them they went behind the desk and took their jackets themselves. Not a big deal….but rude.
Food: Probably the worst thing about Campagnolo on Main St is the food. Let me quote their website: “Campagnolo serves rustic dishes inspired by the Piedmont and Emiglia-Romagna regions of Italy” Are you telling me there are regions in Italy with no taste buds? I’m sorry but I just don’t believe you. News flash Campagnolo – Our fresh ingredients do not even have HALF the taste that fresh grown “Italian” ingredients in Italy have – the menu just doesn’t transfer to our side of the world. Tomatoes and Basil alone are almost unrecognizable in taste in Italy; it sure doesn’t taste like the stuff we get in Urban Fair. In 2 words I would describe the taste of the 3 salads, 3 pizzas, 4 pastas, and 3 desserts – BLAND and salty (isn’t that an oxymoron?). We were given a set menu and all shared the same food each person had to pay about $45 for the food alone. The website says this is an “affordable” restaurant?
Now, if this isn’t enough to detour you let me tell you about the “piece de résistance.”
We made a reso for 15 people, but only 13 people showed up. Once we were given our first round of drinks we told the hostess and gave up one of the small 2 seater tables we were holding. Then the bill comes and we were charged for 15 plates. We let them know of their mistake and we were told that it is their policy to charge for the number of people on the reservation. We told them that that was absolutely ridiculous especially when we told our server that 2 people would not be joining us and they could take the extra table. We continued to argue with them for a few minutes and they were dead –set on not making us happy. How does a restaurant stay open that operates like this in a city FULL of amazing restaurants? Now, even if the kitchen had started working on our food the moment we walked in (which they so OBVIOUSLY didn’t – or maybe the kitchen has very slow bill times to boot?) is it hard to adjust a group portion of salad, pasta, and pizza? Especially since each course was sent out timed apart? The food they make (and not very well at that) is the simplest menu possible! Not to mention losing 10 thirty something’s with nothing but disposable income who dine out nightly as customers.
I was looking forward to going to Campagnolo due to some of the reviews that I had read and from having had a nice dining experience at Fuel, however, I was very dissapointed. I have experienced working in the service industry for several years, and I spend a considerable amount of time dining out all over the world with clients and friends; it is one of my favortite passtimes. As such, I know the quality that is out there, and I have an insiders perspective when to attribute something to the restaurant being busy, or some other issue that could unfortunately impact a customers dining experience. This was not the case here.
The ambience is lacking; infact, I don’t think that ambience even applies to this place. The food was very average. Service was poor to average. On a night where every walk in got a table, and the floor was adequately staffed, our group sat with empty glasses for more than half of our meal and we were drinking wine, brut, and beer, which is easily replenishable. We were in for a special occasion and looked forward to the social and relaxed atmosphere that is afforded by the description of a rustic Italian dining experience. We were not told that there was another reservation after us or that we had a time limit to eat, nor did we close out the restaurant, yet we were somewhat yelled at for taking an hour to start eating??? I could go on about the lack luster experience at this largely over-hyped restaurant but true connoisseurs of dining will already be turned off by the above. One important thing to know is that if you make a reservation and someone can’t make it, you will be charged for there meal. That is the Campagnolo touch of class!
@Care & @Larry – I assume you guys were dining together? I am horrified with your unfortunate experience. I strongly suggest you guys take this up with the upper management there and hopefully they will take care of matters appropriately.
My experience was very different so I don’t want to comment to much. However I respect your opinions and will leave your comments published on this post.
Again thank you for sharing your experience with others and I hope that you really do take these problems to management.