When a new spot opens in town, we're eager to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead, a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).
Restaurant: Campo Italian Bistro & Bar
Location: 8260 North Hayden Road, Suite A102, Scottsdale
Eats/drinks: Italian and Mediterranean eats and cocktails
Open: About a week
Hours: 3 p.m. to close Tuesdays through Sunday
Campo Italian Bistro & Bar, the latest addition to Genuine Concepts (The Vig, The Womack, and The Little Woody) opened June 1. The restaurant was previously home to the short-lived Stratta Kitchen, opened by the James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Stratta last August. The Stratta Kitchen menu spotlighted dishes from the Mediterranean coast, but Stratta (the human) has stuck around to join Genuine Concepts executive chef Jeremy Pacheco with Campo’s offerings. The menu now focuses more on antipasto, pasta, pizzas, and entrees with an Italian-countryside theme.
We stopped in at Campo very early — just a few days after its opening. We had faith the veteran hospitality group would have things running smoothly. It mostly did.
From the menu's "Snacks" section, we tried the stracchino cheese, a small bowl of Italian cow's-milk cheese, seasoned slightly and decked out with herbs, and accompanied by thin, brittle, also-season crackers. The creamy cheese was bland and goopy in some parts, while other parts had an absolute zang of cheese taste — like eating the cheese seasoning straight from a box of Kraft’s The Cheesiest (but better).
Eyeing the antipasti, we tried the Rovey Dairy wagyu beef Carpaccio. This was a beautifully plated dish of pecorino cheese, micro arugula, sherry vinaigrette, and sea salt over a layer of very tender beef. There could have been slightly more sea salt — possibly flaky salt would have worked better — but this was still a good dish.
Pasta was a must. The ultra-light-sounding Spaghetti Cacio e Peppe caught our eye. This was a simple dish of twisty Sonoran Pasta Co. spaghetti made with organic durum wheat — or so the menu states. It was dressed with cracked pepper, olive oil, and more pecorino cheese. It was also baked? Or at least the top layer was shell-like. We'll be honest: This dish was mostly ignored. It worked better the next day heated up and salted.
Onto the star dish — pizza. Again, staying light (as we wanted to try so many things), we went with the Bianca, a sizeable but thin pizza of ricotta, roasted fennel, prosciutto, and arugula. The ricotta was killer, not bland glop like some ricotta, and the prosciutto was delicate and salty. This was by far the saltiest dish, which may be why it was the favorite. Everything else could have used just a touch more salt.
Our curiosity about the olive oil cake couldn’t be ignored. This was a petite yet very rich dessert dish, poundcake-like in texture, soaked through with mild olive oil, dressed with pistachio crumbles, and surrounded by kumquats and a moat of kumquat jam. It was nicely bitter and well-textured thanks to the pistachio, and insanely moist.
This is an acquired taste, or so our small sampling proved. One loved it (me) and the other simply said, “You can have the rest of that.”
Good luck, Campo. We hope to be back for cocktails soon.
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