Restaurant: Campagnolo Roma
Last Visited: May 2, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Commercial/Grandview)
Address: 2297 East Hastings Street
Transit: EB Hastings St FS Willingdon Ave
Price Range: $10-20 ($15-18 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 4.5-5 (Based on this dinner)
- Sister restaurant to Campagnolo
- Sister restaurant to Fat Dragon BBQ
- Local/neighbourhood favourite
- Busy at peak hours
- Limited seating
- No reservations
- Dine in/Take out
- Lunch Wed-Sun 11:30am-2;30pm
- Dinner Mon-Sun 5pm-10pm
- Weekend brunch
It was my first time at Campagnolo Roma and I came for their Quinto Quarto Dinner Menu (ticketed event open to the public). Although I haven’t been here on a regular night, I had a strong feeling that the chef’s talent likely exceeded what would be offered on their regular menu. It’s an affordable and casual Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pastas, and I’ve heard they’re very good, but the Quinto Quarto menu showed so much more creativity and depth. I guess the style of menus are completely different, and the only commonality was that it was Italian cuisine being prepared by Chef Ted Anderson; but honestly, this creative mind needs a bigger canvas.
I don’t want to say Vancouver doesn’t have any chefs like him, but I will say we don’t have many chefs that have the opportunity to be as gutsy as him… I guess that’s literally and figuratively. Part of the reason is because we live in “Vanilla-Vancouver”, and by that I mean the tastes of the masses are somewhat ‘safe’. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vancouver and the city is incredibly multi-cultural with a diverse dining scene, but for the most part it’s still “meat and potatoes”, and by that I mean steak and local organic fingerlings.
It’s only been the last couple years or so that pork belly started being appreciated by the masses and showing up on menus outside of Asian cuisine. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Chef Ted is the Chris Consentino of Vancouver (see my post on his restaurant Incanto here), or the Derek Dammann of Vancouver, but given the appropriate restaurant and complete creative freedom, I don’t doubt he could be. Thank goodness for Campagnolo Roma’s special event dinners, because it would be such a shame to hide the offally talented skills of this chef under pizzas and pastas alone.
The Quinto Quarto Dinner Menu ($49/per person) was served alla famiglia (family style) at communal tables. They used to do the same sort of events at sister restaurant ReFuel (now closed), but my Whole Hog Dinner experience there wasn’t the best. However on this occasion they nailed it. Yes, it was a different restaurant, chef and slight change in staff, but the logistics were arranged much better and there were no shortage of portions. In fact, there was more than enough for even seconds and overall it was well worth it.
The Quinto Quarto menu featured all types of offal (innards and organs of an animal) which I am no stranger to. I understand it’s not for everyone, but really this type of dining should be celebrated providing that the meat is well sourced. It’s not about using selective parts of the animal, but valuing the whole animal and not wasting any edible parts of it. And in this case, he did a very good job preparing and showcasing offal especially due to the circumstances. For the most part I’m not keen on event style dinners because I find more often than not the food looks and tastes “mass-produced”, but in this case it was well executed.
The special event menu featured 5 courses and it’s not that every single one was the best thing I’ve ever had or even flawless, but it was creative, exciting, and refreshing. Honestly I think this menu barely scratched the surface of what this chef is really capable of, but I’m glad I had at least a taste of what it could be. This was probably just “playing in the kitchen” for him. I know this menu isn’t representative of what they offer on a regular night, but I was impressed and it made me eager to come back with or without the event.
On the table:
- This is just pickled and spicy vegetables which helped balance the richness of the Pork Liver Pâté.
- There were carrots, cauliflower, pimentos (cherry peppers) and onions.
- It was a good balance of sour and spicy and the veggies were still quite crunchy.
- There weren’t many other spices and seasonings going on except for maybe some garlic and it was nice and simple.
- This was very good and they were quite dense rather than being creamy, light or fluffy.
- The fact that they were sliced and served like this is a sign of their texture and weight.
- The liver flavour wasn’t that strong, but it was still there and there was a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel on top.
- It was smooth in texture and rather consistent in colour and well executed.
- There were no obvious ingredients like capers, heavy spices, strong herbs or currants, and it tasted basic and simple with maybe puréed garlic and onions.
- It’s totally different, but every time I have pork pâté I think of Cretons which is Quebec’s version of pork spread. That has got to be my favourite pork spread so far and if you can try it in Vancouver you should.
- Due to the event setting this wasn’t as fresh from the oven as I had hoped, but it was still made and baked in house.
- The focaccia was chewy, stretchy, moist and well flavoured, but of course would have been better served fresher.
- Slow cooked chicken hearts & duck gizzards.
- So it wasn’t pappardelle, but the rigatoni was fine.
- This was very simple, but well executed. I only wish it had some fresh basil leaves on top. If there were added Morels I would have been over the moon.
- The rigatoni pasta was well salted and cooked al dente with a light coating of savoury and tangy fresh tomato sauce which adhered to the noodles.
- Duck gizzards are perhaps one of my favourite organs in the organ category and he used them whole rather than sliced.
- Duck gizzards are plump and they taste like very tender dark meat chicken meets duck leg. It’s almost like a duck-dark meat chicken nugget.
- They’re not rubbery or chewy, but almost a bit soft and I think they were cooked confit so they had lots of flavour and retained moisture.
- The chicken hearts were basically diced and although they were tossed in raw and cooked in the heat of the pasta, they actually still overcooked and got quite firm and slightly tough. Naturally they are chewy, but these were just a bit chewier than normal although not dry.
- It was a pretty substantial pasta and it’s good enough to be put on a menu with maybe one more ingredient.
- It baffles me that chicken hearts can be eaten almost raw and the rest of the chicken has to be cooked. I’ve seen seared or sashimi style chicken on Iron Chef, but generally speaking I’m still in awe.
- Cotechino stuffed trotter, red wine braised lentils
- I want this for my birthday. I’m so used to having pork hock Asian style or even German style, but Italian style like this is the winner for me thus far.
- I actually think it’s my first time trying Il Zampone, but it certainly won’t be my last.
- Il Zampone is basically stuffed pig’s trotter or Italian luncheon meat. It’s gourmet SPAM.
- Make a $5 piece of meat taste $50 and this is what you get. I loved it.
- The fat under the skin was well rendered and the skin was slightly chewy rather than crunchy or crispy, but it was still good.
- For what it was there was a good balance of meat and fat and it was obviously a very rich, filling and heavy dish.
- I’m not keen on only gelatinous textures, and I prefer it be melt in your mouth creamy when I have it, and this was. This one had just the right amount to be enjoyed.
- The gelatinous pork trotters and cured meat (tasted like roasted ham) were all shredded and chopped up to form a stuffing which eventually ends up being like a sausage.
- The zampone was incredibly tender, juicy, creamy, not chewy and well flavoured with an apparent sweetness from either cloves or all spice. It was beautifully aromatic and not overpowering.
- The lentils were possibly the best lentils I’ve had to date, although the ones from Hawksworth’s is close competition – see Confit Pork Shoulder with braised lentils.
- These lentils were also braised in delicious pork drippings and red wine.
- The lentils had a deep and complex savoury umami flavour that was nothing but addicting.
- The lentils were tender yet firm and they were mouthfuls of just super juicy bites which I ate like there was no tomorrow.
- They were braised with carrots, onions and celery so they had the basic aromatics.
- Just look at the chopping of the vegetables too. There was good attention to detail despite the family style presentation.
- I kid you not, there was maybe a spoonful of lentils left spread out on the plate and the server came to take the dish away and I almost slapped his hand. Had there been more bread I would have mopped it up, but I did finish the last bite.
- If you like all parts of the pig I will also recommend the Sizzling Pork Sisig or Dinuguan from Kumare.
- Other dishes which celebrate the pig was the Berkshire Pig from Blue Hill in New York and the Whole Hog Dinner from ReFuel.
- nduja bread crumbs
- This was the healthiest dish of the night and it didn’t even taste that healthy because it was a bit too salty. I still liked it though, but I have a high tolerance for salt.
- It was braised or sautéed Stinging Nettle and rapini which is a bitter green.
- Stinging Nettle is almost like fuzzy spinach and it helps the urinary track.
- They were cooked well and packed with flavour with a nice heat to follow.
- There was a sweet and spicy red pepper sauce and I felt like there was Siracha sauce in it, but it could be because I was seeing the colour. I saw no chili flakes, but there was a nice kick.
- The vegetables were sauteed in some vinegar for acidity and the slight bitterness of the rapini ended up being desired next to the indulgent stuffed pork trotters.
- Sweetbread vinaigrette, ramps
- I like how they stuck to Italian tradition and served the salad after the second main course.
- This salad was for carnivores. The salad part was the garnish for the meat to sit on top of.
- There were a generous amount of sweetbreads and pork crackling so it was a very meaty and rich salad.
- The pickled red onions ended up being a great contrast to cut the richness of the greasy pork rinds though.
- I liked the pork rinds, but I would have preferred pancetta because it goes so well with sweetbreads.
- The sweetbreads were chopped up in small pieces and a bit overcooked and firm rather than being creamy and soft. The membranes also weren’t completely removed so they were a bit stringy still. I also which they were seasoned a bit more, but the rest of the salad had flavour.
- I loved the concept and creativity, but it wasn’t the highlight of the meal.
- Get out! Seriously. “Get out” with a push like Elaine gives Jerry on Seinfeld “Get out”. This was sick. I mean that in a good way too.
- Chef made “maple bacon” seem tired and over done. Maple bacon is good, but after a while it’s nice to see something new. And this, this was new!
- I don’t know where he got this idea from, but if it was all him… then what. the. funhouse.
- I give this a 6/6 and call it a “must try” due to creativity, but not necessarily due to it tasting ridiculously amazing. They did taste very good though!
- This was my favourite of the night and it wasn’t because it tasted the best because it didn’t, but it was because it was the most inspiring and unique things I’ve had this year.
- The candied tendon was executed like a marmalade and it was infused with aromatic fruit flavours so it tasted like fruit jellies. It was AMAZING.
- There were also little pieces of bittersweet chocolate throughout the very lightly sweetened and fluffy ricotta cheese filling.
- The bits of candied tendon and pieces of chocolate were folded into the ricotta cheese filling and piped into the cannoli.
- The cannoli pastry was light and crisp and not crunchy and the tendons were chewy just like bits of fruit gummies.
- Honestly I can’t stop thinking about this dish and talked about it days after. I want to cry thinking about how smart it was.
- This is the amount they gave for 4 people too. Talk about generous.
- I have to also mention the pork blood ice cream as another very creative dessert I had at their sister restaurant Refuel (now closed).