Village Voice critic Jeff Weinstein called Campanile (opened by Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton in 1989) “the last restaurant of the ’80s”.
Jonathan Gold recently said, “it appears that Weinstein may have been correct. No restaurant since has managed to marry populist tendencies with the highest levels of culinary ambition, and no restaurant has introduced even a fraction of the number of wines, from Italy and boutique California, to the American palate.”
I have only been to Campanile a few times in the 8 years I have lived in LA - once for lunch with my dad, once for dinner with Chris and his dad, and once for Grilled Cheese Night (Thursdays) with a friend about 6 months ago. But we were only there for wine and catching up times.
And then again last week.
April and I met Yvonne and her friends, Becky and Dave, last Thursday to get our grilled cheese on. I was the only one of us that had been there before. April and I met up with Yvonne at the bar to have a glass of wine and to wait for Dave and Becky to arrive.
We decided to get a flight of wine each to share and sample - 3 ladies, 3 reds, 3 whites and 3 rosés. Taylor, the wine director, told us he would select some gems for us. Taylor is a gem. About halfway through our flights Dave and Becky showed up, and we were led (with our flights) to our table.
We started out with an order of Beer-Battered Squash Blossoms with arugula, almond, parsley pesto ($11) and two orders of Raviolo Gigante with brown butter, pine nuts & sage ($12). Taylor paired our starters with a sparkling vouvray. Upon tasting it, Yvonne, in her non-inside voice, announced, “It tastes like drinking diamonds!” She was right.
I do love a squash blossom and these were ginormous, healthy specimens. The batter was only slightly heavy for my taste. The raviolos were exceptional. Exceptional. You can’t go wrong with brown butter and sage, but I would have preferred hazelnuts to pine nuts here.
We decided that all five of us would get a different type of grilled cheese sandwich so we could each taste as much as possible. Here we go:
BLTA with braised bacon, tomato, avocado, bibb lettuce, green goddess ($17)
Braised Lamb with braised artichokes, roasted cherry tomato, feta cheese ($18)
Fresh Burrata with cherry tomato, garbanzo bean, serrano ham, parsley pesto ($17)
Skirt Steak with gruyere, tomato, arugula, aioli ($18)
Classic Grilled Cheese with marinated onion and/or whole grain mustard ($16)
Lest I forget, the “basket” of fries that comes for the table (on Grilled Cheese Night only) is really something. This is not news, however. They came in as runner up in LA Weekly’s “Top 10 Fries”. In fact, when our server tried to clear the table, and the fries with it, Yvonne went into near hysterics, screeching (also in her non-inside voice), “No tocas mi papas fritas!!” (which I’d like to add, directly translated means, “nonheadresses my chipses”.) Needless to say, we may have begun to frighten a few people at this point.
Taylor paired each sandwich with its own wine, and/or multiple wines. I cannot say enough good stuff about Taylor and his attentiveness to our table, by the way. We were able to taste so many wonderful wines that were all ideally matched with our foodstuffs.
We finished the meal up with the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with chai ice cream, caramel sauce ($12) and the Pear Tarte Tatin with ginger ice cream, candied hazelnuts ($12), which were paired with various ports and a Moscato d’Asti. Perfection.
We all loved our evening, each others' company, our conversation and, of course, sandwiches and wines beyond our imaginations. I felt like we were the happiest, most indulged, most well attended table ever. It was one of those times where I realized there was absolutely nowhere else in the world I would rather be.
I might add that Yvonne, April and I were fortunate enough to spend some time after dinner, at the bar, with Taylor and superstar chef, Mark Peel. Jealous much?
Needless to say, all three of us girls plan on returning with frequency to Campanile for grilled cheese on Thursday nights, and beyond. In fact, April and I plan to return this week to sit at the bar, order a couple of things off the menu and split a bottle of wine.