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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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??
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!
Keep up with Campanile news on their Facebook page: facebook.com/campanilerestaurant
See their Yelp reviews here!