Friday, 6 July 2012

Campagnola Restaurant: A disappointing trip to the Italian countryside

Campagnola Restaurant:

1020 Main St.

Vancouver, BC



Yumminess factor: 3.5/5

Service: 2/5

Ambience: 4/5

Locavore friendly? Yes

Overall: 3/5


Campagnola had been on the top of my wish list (now over 40 restaurants long!) for some time so I was very excited when the opportunity arose to plan a dinner there with some of our friends. We had planned on making it our "reward dinner" after hiking the three peaks of the Chief but it ended up being so rainy that we passed on the hike and did dinner anyway. The hike could wait but my first trip to Campagnola could not- too long overdue already!

 Campagnola is in a rather sketchy area, right next to the ever-so-classy Ivenhow hotel (the boys in the group went here after dinner, us girls politely declined). Inside the restaurant, however, is quite nice and I almost felt like I was in a casual bistro in Barcelona when I walked through the door.  The place was abuzz, which meant a LONG wait for out table (you cannot make reservations).  My friends were the first to arrive and were quite upset at the greeting they received. They told the man who greeted them (?maybe a manager) that there would be either 6 or 7 of us (one was unsure if she could make it) and apparently snapped at them, saying he needed an exact number or he could not have us seated. Does it really make that much of a difference? Not a good first impression.

They were then escorted to the bar at the back to wait for our table.  The space by the bar was very cramped, making it very difficult for the six of us to have a chat while we waited. I know they are trying to maximize tables but I think hat for the comfort of guests that are waiting (and this place is super busy so this is often the case) they should clear away some of the back tables to expand the bar space.  Space aside, I did really enjoy my bellini made of local white peach purée.  I appreciated this seasonal touch to the quite unique cocktail menu.


Finally, over an hour later, we were seated at a booth in the main part of the restaurant.  Unfortunately, the poor service continued.  It took quite a while for our waitress to arrive to offer drinks and when she did arrive, no apology was given for our wait.  After getting our drinks (by that point, we had been seated for at least 20 minutes, we finally had our orders taken. I did not find our server all that helpful with dish selection and she was not very helpful in telling me about the "localness" of the ingredients.  She did tell us about their group menu, which is a chef-chosen selection of their dishes served family style, but we decided to stick with a-la-carte. 

My girlfriends and I shared 3 appies- the Crispy Ceci (deep fried chickpeas), the Eggplant Carpaccio and a Salmon Bruschetta.    The ceci was very tasty but this is definitely a sharing dish as the chickpeas are quite salty and would get sickening if you ate too many.  I thought the eggplant carpaccio would be my favorite but I felt the flavors to be a little underwhelming. The bruschetta was the star for me because of the generous topping of beautiful (and local!) salmon on a nice crispy crostini. 


For my main, I chose the Risotto with califlower, olives and marscapone.  Whenever I see risotto on a menu, I am always very excited and this one sounded particularly good because of the seasonal (and local, according to our waitress) califlower and the olives (good in almost anything!).  Unfortunately, this was a bit of a miss for me from the start as it lacked flavor and the color (beige on beige) was lacklustre.  I kept plowing through it, however, until I bit into something much less palatable- a piece of plastic wrapping. I called the manager over and let him know and he was very apologetic.  He offered to replate it (had it been a better dish I would have accepted) and I was not charged for it.  Still, this kind of put a damper on a meal that was already mediaocre at best.


All of my dinner companions chose pizza as their main course.  I had a taste of the BlancoVerde (spinach and mushroom) and the Salsiccia (fennel sausage and arugula) and, while they were enjoyable enough, they were certainly not at the same level as those from other Neapolitan pizza places around the city (Nicli, Farina, Novo).  


In the end, the consensus amongst the group was that experience was a bit of a letdown.  Poor service (poor attitude, slow) and the food was just OK which an overall lack in flavor. The only thing that really bought it a few extra points in my book was the seasonal and local ingredients that were incorporated into the menu.  It seems that many before me have nothing but good things to say about this place so maybe we just hit it on a bad day?  Nevertheless, it is not likely that I will be giving this place a second chance anytime soon, especially considering the 40+ other places on my Wishlist.  

Stay tuned for my next planned outing- my return to Fable, a place that, based on my first experience, definitely deserves a second visit!!!

Campagnolo on Urbanspoon




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