Things We’ll Miss – Campanile – Los Angeles, CA

Food Adventures, Los Angeles

Campanile, a long established restaurant housed in a building formerly owned by Charlie Chaplin, closed its doors at the end of October after 23 years under famed Executive Chef Mark Peel. Having read the tragic news on EaterLA a month prior and not wanting to miss the opportunity to check them out, I knew where I wanted to celebrate my birthday.

Mmm bread…

When we arrived, it seemed we were not the only ones trying to squeeze in a visit before the month ended. We were seated by the cute little Spanish tiled fountain and were surprised to see a handful of koi swimming around. Being a real estate nerd, I couldn’t help but admire the high vaulted ceilings, the beautiful glass skylights, and the all-around industrial “look” — it was like sitting in a piece of history.

Yes, I took a picture of the ceiling. Antics like this will surely get me on asianstakingpicturesoffood…

As we perused the menu, we were a bit disappointed to hear that there weren’t any off-menu specials that Tuesday night, but no matter — I spied the Bigoli di Nero on the pasta list and I had to have it. We started with a round of cocktails (a Sazerac for him, a Thorned White Rose martini for me) to accompany the delicious La Brea Bakery bread that was brought to our table. Thanks to a check-in offer (I love smartphones), we also enjoyed a complimentary amuse bouche – a teeny tiny caprese tower. So cute!

Amuse bouche

Before long, our food arrived. I was very pleasantly surprised with a dish that exuded the fragrance of ocean. The Bigoli di Nero – described simply as “octopus bolognese, aleppo pepper, shaved parmesan” – captured the essence of what I love most about seafood pastas with its rich flavorful sauce that enhanced the subtle, natural brininess of the ink pasta. The shavings of parmesan were a perfect complement. I ate every last bite, reluctantly sharing a single bite with M out of courtesy. The seafood stock may have reduced a teeny bit too long but I could overlook the saltiness because the flavor was just so well developed.

Bigoli di Nero

M ordered the Pan Seared Scallops entree, served with “creamy polenta, vanilla butter carrots, asparagus, wild arugula.” His scallops arrived beautifully caramelized and clearly the star of the entree. He remarked that they were perfectly cooked, barely opaque in the center. He polished off his dish with his only comment being that the creamy polenta had a flavor resembling mashed potatoes more so than maize. Still, he said, it tasted delicious, especially if that was the flavor profile the chef intended.

Pan Seared Scallops

Our usual dining pattern consists of a shared appetizer, two entrees, and a shared dessert, but since we decided to forgo the starter this time, we did what any normal couple would do – order two desserts. M (or perhaps it was his sweet tooth talking) selected the Boca Negra – a dense, chocolate ganache tart topped with chocolate sauce and served a la mode with banana ice cream. It was so rich and decadent and, lucky for me, not too sweet since it was largely dark chocolate. Yum!

Boca Negra

Occasionally I’ll have a moment when I read a menu description and, without hesitation, know that I HAVE to have it. Perhaps it stirred up an old memory, or perhaps I had been craving it and didn’t even realize, or perhaps it sounds so fascinating that I just have to see how it works out. Such was the case with the Caprese Cheesecake, a simple slice of New York style cheesecake served in the most interesting way I’ve ever had it: topped with “blistered cherry tomatoes, balsamic reduction, fried basil,” truly paying homage to its namesake caprese. The blistered tomatoes were candied and syrupy sweet, pairing well with the tart white balsamic. The fried basil was a nice crispy garnish to contrast with all the creamy and gooey textures going on. Our final reaction — it was weird but it totally worked. Now why didn’t I think of that first??

Caprese Cheesecake

All in all we had a great dinner experience. Our only regret is not being able to try more dishes on their menu (hint, grilled cheese Thursdays, hint) before it was too late. But have no fear — we’ve heard through the grapevine that Chef Peel and team are scouting out a new home for Campanile and once they find it, you can bet that I’ll be there bright and early, waiting for a famous grilled cheese sandwich… and maybe some squid ink pasta too. Farewell for now, Campanile!

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Keep up with Campanile news on their Facebook page: facebook.com/campanilerestaurant

See their Yelp reviews here!

Day 3b: Morgan Hill – Maurizio’s

Food Adventures, San Francisco

The evening of Day 3 – dinner at Maurizio’s, or as we affectionately nicknamed it, Italian Take #2.

A glimpse into the kitchen through the pass

After an exhausting drive in traffic crossing the Bay Bridge, we finally arrived in Morgan Hill where we planned to stay over before continuing our journey down the coast. We used our trusty Yelp app to figure out where to go for dinner and decided to check out Maurizio’s. Located just off the quaint little downtown area, Maurizio’s features an enticing menu of authentic Italian dishes with warm, rustic decor and a hole-in-the-wall vibe.

Warm table bread and roasted garlic oil

Our friendly server Daniel guided us to our entree selections and brought us delicious fresh baked bread accompanied by roasted garlic in olive oil to nosh on. The bread was warm and fluffy and the roasted garlic reminded us of the bagna cauda we had at The Stinking Rose in Beverly Hills. A wonderful start to our meal!

Pan Seared Scallops over Risotto ai Funghi

Having read a tip that the daily specials here are awesome, Martin selected the Fish of the Day – seared scallops served over a bed of mushroom risotto. The scallops were pan seared and then finished in the oven, yielding a beautiful caramelized crust and a pale opaque center. The risotto was good and hearty and I liked how the parmesan did not overpower the mushrooms. The dish was garnished with arugula that had been drizzled with a white wine vinaigrette, but it may have been a bit heavy on the dressing because the taste of alcohol was present in almost every bite! (Not necessarily a bad thing…)

Orecchiette alla Pugliese

I chose the Orecchiette alla Pugliese — “ear” shaped pasta with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and fresh tomato. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente and the broccoli rabe with its bitterness contrasted nicely with the sweet ripe tomatoes and caramelized onions. The Italian sausage is juicy and so flavorful! It is not made in-house, but it is sourced from a local meat shop / sausage maker by Maurizio himself. I really enjoyed how satisfying and well-balanced my dish was. (By the way, someone at the restaurant may want to proofread some of the menu descriptions for interesting spelling mistakes….)

We devoured every last bite!

We both polished off our dishes completely. But as they say, there’s always room for dessert!

Tiramisu

After the interesting tiramisu the night before, we were hoping for a more traditional style here at Maurizio’s and they certainly delivered. Snagging one of the last slices of the popular dessert, we were surprised to learn that they do not soak the lady fingers in a rum-espresso mixture but rather a non-alcoholic rum extract of sorts to make it kid-friendly. The marscapone had a bit of heavy cream whipped in for added fluffiness and it was delicate and not too sweet, just the way I like it. The perfect way to end the meal!

Daniel was so nice to answer our many questions about the dishes and about the chef-owner Maurizio. He proudly mentioned that the chef comes in every day during prep to taste the components of each dish and to demonstrate how to plate them. They do make some fresh pasta; the papparadelle and the fettuccine are both made in-house. Even though the orecchiette and sausage in my dish were made elsewhere, Daniel reassured me that Maurizio is a discerning chef who only chooses the best for his restaurant, and you can definitely taste the quality of the ingredients in the dishes served here!

We don’t find ourselves in Morgan Hill very often, but if we’re ever back in town, I know where we’ll be eating! Make sure you come early before we snag the last slice(s) of tiramisu :)

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Check out Maurizio’s: mauriziosrestaurant.com

25 E 1st St
Morgan Hill, CA 95037

See their Yelp reviews here!

A Docked “Galley” in Morro Bay

Central Coast, Food Adventures

In a recent weekend trip to Morro Bay, we were trying to find a relatively nice sit-down restaurant to dine on Saturday evening. Many of the oceanfront restaurants seemed to cater to tourists and a brief glance of their menus didn’t spark any interest.

After doing a brief search on Yelp!, we decided to check out the menu at The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar and a place to stay at the adjoining inn. Although the inn had booked out along with every inn on that street, the manager recommended we make reservations in advance for The Galley.

The Galley Car

The host, John, was very friendly and took our reservations for 8:30pm. After a few hours of walking around and realizing that Morro Bay is a small retirement ocean-side town that, after the peak summer season, had very little to do, we decided to arrive at The Galley a full hour early. John, who had seen us hovering around over the menu outside deciding in advance what we wanted to order, came out and offered to seat us earlier if other parties had not arrived by 8:15pm. It was difficult not to notice how busy they were despite being in the off-season. We even noticed John turning away other parties due to the number of reservations.

We came back later and by this point, both he and another staff member had recognized us and immediately showed us to our table. We were seated in a corner section in the dimly lit Galley which was frequented by an older and local crowd.

Let’s start with the table bread. Alice and I are both suckers for warm ciabatta and look what they had…mini ciabatta loaves, served with homemade whipped herbed butter.

Mini Ciabatta Loaf

We decided to splurge, ordering up a half dozen oysters that, according to our server Jennifer, came from British Columbia. These things were ginormous, a lot larger than the Fanny Bay varieties served at seafood restaurants in Santa Monica and Venice during happy hour. They were sizable and very briny, delicious.

Oysters On The Half Shell

Alice knew exactly what she wanted for her entree, the Pan Seared Scallops, a Galley specialty. The scallops were moist and perfectly cooked — a beautiful golden sear on the outside, nice and opaque on the inside. The garlic mashed potatoes, made with Yukon Golds, was flavorful and even better with the pan jus drizzled on the plate. The assortment of steamed vegetables were well cooked and nothing was soggy. Bringing a bit of autumn into the kitchen, the “garnish” was a slice of steamed kabocha, wonderfully sweet and starchy.

Pan Seared Scallops

Torn between the Blackened Local Snapper, Pan Seared Scallops, and Rack of Lamb, I asked Jennifer for her recommendation but she made a simple suggestion: get what you crave. Rack of Lamb, rare, was the final verdict. I had to ask her if they would be able to do that because some restaurants refuse to serve lamb rare in fear of diners getting sick, but Jennifer seemed confident that their quality was high enough to serve it however I wanted.

The lamb was amazing, very tender on the inside and seared to a slight crisp on the outside. Again, a very sizable portion with 4 double-ribs. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Kalamata tapenade but that is a personal preference. The garlic mashed potatoes, tucked under the rack of lamb, were a big hit as well but I wish they had given a larger scoop.

Rack of Lamb – Rare

After Alice and I polished off our plates, we finished up with the Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée. I amused myself for the longest time saying the name while waiting for our dessert, it just rhymed so well! (Try saying it out loud, noting that Marnier is pronounced like marn-yay, not mar-nee-er.) I have to say this crème brûlée marginally overtook the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée we had at Opal in Santa Barbara, which, for its simplicity, was very high in quality. However, the Grand Marnier added an extra citrusy zing that was different from just vanilla beans. Five stars for sure.

Grand Marnier Crème Brûlée

Overall it was a great experience with phenomenal service through the whole night, even before we were seated. The food was excellent and the staff extremely accommodating.  Shout out to John for his amazingness of working to getting us seated earlier than expected and Jennifer for being so attentive to our needs and excellent recommendations. We will definitely be back if we find ourselves in Morro Bay again.

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Check out The Galley: www.galleymorrobay.com/

899 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA 93442

See their Yelp reviews here.