Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Campo Enoteca, Manchester

Whenever I visit my family in New Hampshire, I fly into Boston, and one (or both) of my parents graciously travel to pick me up.  As I've mentioned before, my father is not a very adventurous eater, and neither of my parents are comfortable driving in cities, so our dining options for the return voyage are a bit limited.

A year or so ago, I discovered Republic Cafe in Manchester, a bigger city than my parents really want to drive (and park!) in, but not out of the question.  We had three different meals there, all quite impressive, so I was particularly excited when I read that they opened a sister restaurant, just a few doors down.  Republic Cafe is mostly Mediterranean, but Campo Enoteca is an Italian restaurant, open for lunch and dinner.  Italian cuisine is one that both of my parents are familiar with, so I was hopeful that this could become a new destination for us.

The menu is radically different than Republic Cafe, as you'd expect since Campo Enoteca serves Italian cuisine, and Republic, Mediterranean.  Their specialties are fresh made pasta, housemade bread, and an impressive charcuterie and cheese selection, available at both lunch and dinner.  The lunch menu is rounded out by an assortment of paninis, salads, and a few antipasti.  For dinner they have the same salads and pastas (available in half portions!), plus more antipasti options, and full entree plates rather than paninis.

The Setting

Wooden tables and chairs.
The decor is very bright.  The walls are all quite colorful: orange, red, purple.

Tables and chairs are wooden, slightly rustic style.
Benches.
Some of the seats are dark red benches, complimenting the regal color scheme throughout.
Bar Area.
Up at the bar, I saw the facilities for freshly squeezing lemon, and the other side of the bar area had the charcuterie station.

Service was shockingly quick.  After placing our orders, I went to use the bathroom, and by the time I returned my mother's drink had arrived.  We had barely each taken a sip, when our salad arrived.  My mom wasn't even done the salad when the pastas arrived, which was great, as it meant that I had time to snap photos, while she was distracted :)

Drinks

Water Jug on Table.
Just like at Republic Cafe, we were provided with our own jug of water on the table, which I greatly appreciated, given how much water I tend to drink.  I never had to deal with waiting for refills!
Basil Lime Spritzer. $4.
My mother decided to splurge and get a fancy non-alcoholic spritzer.  She picked the Basil Lime Spritzer, and I think we were both a little surprised when it showed up looking pink.

It didn't taste all that "pink" however, and the basil flavor was super strong.  It really grew on her, and she enjoyed it, and thought it was worth the $4 price.

Cuisine

Sourdough Bread and Olive Oil.
I had read great things about the housemade bread, but, sadly, it was sourdough, and I dislike sourdough.  That said, it was good bread, super moist, with a perfectly crispy crust.

The olive oil was amazing.  Clearly really high quality.  I wished repeatedly that I had something that I wanted to dunk in the oil.  Seriously good stuff, with a pleasant grassy quality.
Small Roman Salad. $6.
"Parmesan dressing, shaved asiago, parmesan crisp."

My mom decided to start with a salad, to have some greens before eating heavy pasta.  Even though I said I didn't want salad, of course I had to try a bite ... or two, which she obliged.  I think she is even getting accustomed to being told she must wait for me to snap a photo before diving in!

We were offered fresh ground pepper table side, which she opted for.

The greens were fresh and crisp.  The dressing had a nice tang, and it was not overdressed.  Large shreds of parmesan plus a ridiculously flavorful, super crisp parmesan crisp completed the salad.

It was just a salad, never that interesting to me, but it was a good one, and the parmesan crisp added a really nice twist to a classic caesar.  My mom also enjoyed this.

The $6 price for a side salad was reasonable.
Orecchiette. $10.
"Broccoli rabe, chili, herb ricotta, local cream."

After a lot of research, I knew which dish to order: the orecchiette.  It was as great as I had hoped.

We were offered fresh ground pepper and parmesan cheese, again served table side.

It was served piping hot, clearly fresh.  Major points for this.

The pasta was perfectly cooked, al dente.  The chili added just a hint of spice.  It was perfectly creamy, from the mix of cream and ricotta, with chunks of ricotta distributed throughout that felt like little gifts whenever I discovered one.

There were little bits of chopped onion that added additional flavor, plus a decent amount of slightly bitter broccoli rabe.

Overall, quite successful, and I'd gladly get it again.

The portion was generous.  I could have finished it if I wanted, although I would have been stuffed, but I decided to stop at a comfortably full level and save some for later that night.  Note to self: just finish it.  It wasn't as good cold, and when I reheated it, it got very oily.  The $10 price for fresh made pasta was quite reasonable.
Classic Roman Carbonara. $11.
"Bucatini, parmesan, guanciale, local eggs, black pepper, parsley, no cream."

My mom's pick was the carbonara, an authentic dish, relying on only the eggs for the richness, no cream.  The bucatini was a fresh pasta with a good chew to it, but there wasn't a lot of flavor to the dish.  I did like the bits of crispy guanciale, and was glad to try this signature dish, but overall this was disappointing, and I was glad it was her pick, not mine.

The portion was again generous, and the price right, and she also brought home leftovers.
Campo Enoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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