Restaurant Review: Campagnola

MMMM (4 out of 5)

Had a great spur-of-the-moment meal at Campagnola in Evanston on Friday night. If I had the budget, I’d make this my local hangout/weekly dining experience. Until I ramp up a few tax brackets, I’ll have to be satisfied with the occasional treat.

Dined upstairs for the first time, which I much preferred to the downstairs “Cafe” environment. The food’s great no matter where you sit, but upstairs is cozier, and quieter–better suited for conversation. We sat at the bar which was very nice, next to the big picture window overlooking the street, with a view to the kitchen in the back of the room.

Started with a great glass of wine, an Italian red that I’d been recommended the last time I’d dined here. It’s a Cusumano Benuara, which is from Sicily I believe; it’s a delicious blend of native Nero D’Avola and Syrah. Very tasty. Since we were sitting at the bar and playing it low-key, we split an hors d’oeuvre and each ordered a different salad to try for our meal. To start was conch on polenta with some sort of tasty sauce on it. The salads, one spinach with toasted figs, the other endive in a mustard creme dressing, were both good. I could make a meal out of the homemade bread with fresh pats of real butter that accompanies dinner.

The killer course, as it often is, was dessert. Positively to-die-for! Anne had the chocolate dessert (I forget the fancy names for them all) which is sitting in a bit of creme, and when you cut into it, the warm chocolate inside oozes out. It’s the restaurant’s signature dessert, with good reason. Karen and I split the rice pudding (their fancy description used “risotto” in place of rice) and a custard dessert that was SO, SO delicious.

The rice pudding was probably the best I’ve ever had. (Rice pudding is my new favorite thing, so I’m trying it everywhere i go, from the cheapest diners to the snazziest spots. So far Erwin’s rice pudding is a close runner-up.) Campagnola’s had a great cinnamon aroma and flavor, as well as other subtle flavors (clove? rosemary?) that made it stand out. And the consistency was thick and rich. The custard was coconut flavored, with a lemon glaze and passion fruit seeds and it was really incredible.

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