Cooking is an art of love
I first discovered Campo de Fiori while wandering aimlessly through Gallery Row in Vail. A gentle murmur and clinking of glasses caught my attention, and I looked up, where large windows in soft lights revealed silhouettes of people eating, drinking and making merry. It looked like a private party, but it turns out anyone is welcome.
“This restaurant is like one big family,” said general manager Audrey Disciascio.
There’s nothing overdone or un-cheerful about Campo’s dining room. Cozy wooden tables fill the area, dominated by the open kitchen which is a hotbed of flaming activity. A deck surrounded by flowers is a great option for summertime meals.
My friend and I arrived after a long, hard day at work. Disciascio greeted us at the door, took one look at our faces and pronounced with comforting authority, “Let’s find you a table and get you a drink.”
And she did just that, recommending one of their signature martinis made with infused cranberry and grapefruit vodka. The slightly tart elixir served well chilled in a martini glass helped us ease into a comfortable, relaxed dinner.
We began with the frutti di mare alla griglia ($14), a heaping pile of shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels. Garlic permeates the savory dish. Chef Simone Reatti has a way with seafood, searing it to give a savory crust but never overcooking it. The clams were my favorite, soaking up the flavors. It fed both of us, and could have fed four for an appetizer if we hadn’t had such large appetites. Paired with a sparkling Presecco ($7/glass), we were content.
Disciascio recommended the spinach salad ($11), topped with pungent Gorgonzola and sweetly marinated red onions, tossed with a pine nut and raisin balsamic vinaigrette.
I have an obsession with truffles, so the carpaccio al tartufo ($12) was my favorite antipasti choice. Thinly sliced beef tenderloin covered the plate in overlapping layers. The whole plate was drizzled with a black truffle vinaigrette, which permeated the beef with its earthy essence. Arugula, mushrooms and shaved ricotta topped it off.
“We are looking for really simple food and light food using as small amounts as possible of butter and cream,” said Reatti in his heavy Italian accent, excited about his cuisine. “We try to use a lot of olive oil and herbs and fresh ingredients because we believe fresh ingredients are the key to good food. Most things are cooked on the grill or sauteed, not many of them are cooked in cream. Beside the calamari, nothing is deep fried. That’s the key to Italian food.”
The trick, he explained, is to let the true flavor of the ingredients shine through.
For entrees, my dining companion opted for the veal scallopini special, served with extraordinary mashed potatoes tasting of nutmeg. I was drawn to continue the mushroom theme with the ravioli all’odore de funghi ($16), housemade ravioli plump with mushrooms served with an over-the-top champagne cream sauce. Coupled with the Ramsey pinto noir ($9/glass), I was stuffed and happy.
We finished with the new semifreddo dessert, with a port reduction sauce, and a classic creme brulee.
In addition to the carpaccio, the linguine ai crostacei ($17), seafood in a spicy tomato sauce, is Reatti’s signature dish.
Reatti got his love for pasta from his grandmother, who worked as a chef. Because she had arthritis, Reatti helped her with the heavy work, soaking up her talent.
“The best way to conquer a heart is with food,” he said. “Women love a chef. Cooking is an art. You can really express yourself and what you think, and you can express to people your happiness and love for life, and your style of life. It gave me the opportunity to travel the world, and it’s not a routine job.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.