Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ristorante/Pizzeria il Campione

Address: Via Marrechia 75, 61015 Novalfeltria (RN), Italy. 054192134.

Review: After flying for eighteen hours, and driving a rental car another three, I was ready (1) to eat, and (2) to eat quickly. Ristorante il Campione filled the bill since it's about 300 meters from my wife's apartment. Campione was quaint and without pretense, as any good ristorante should be.

I began by ordering the beef carpaccio with arugula and grana padana.

As any good sandwich is really about the bread and not the stuff on it, carpaccio is about the meat and not the condiments on top thereof. The beef here was spot on. Raw, flavorful on its own, supple, and read as a beet (which means it was freshly sliced). It alone with olive oil and salt would have been a great dish in itself. That said, the peppery but not too sharp arugula added a lightness, and the grana padana (a cheese in the parmigiano reggiano vein) added a nice nuttiness and satliness that brought out the earthiness of the meat. Simple. Hearty, yet light. Wonderful.

Next up was the strozzapreti with shrimp and zucchini.

Yep, there's no sauce except that created by sautéing the shrimp and zucchini in olive oil. This makes for a wonderfully light dish that is perfect when it's ninety degrees and 75% humidity. The shrimp were fresh and tasted like the sea. The zucchini were finely diced and cooked until they retained their shape but had given up their squash texture. (I, as one who finds most squash texture off-putting, appreciated this cooking technique.) The pasta itself, in the shape of strozzapreti (i.e., "strangle priests," more on the name below) was good, if not slightly tough. It may be because the strozzapreti is a fairly thick pasta, that the pasta will always be a little tough, but this lacked suppleness I find in most fresh pastas in Italy. All in all, though, it was a good dish, and exactly what I needed to eat after a day of airplane food.

Oh, and the water. We had some frizzante (bubbly mineral water), that was serious good drinks.

Overall, good first meal.

Rating: 7.5/10 (5/10 is average).

(Aside: strozzapreti is a shape of pasta that is thicker than most. Like all things Italian, there are many founding stories regarding strozzapreti. My favorite, although it is certainly mythical, explains that strozzapreti came about because Catholic priests would impose themselves and invite themselves to parishioners' homes on Sundays for dinner. The wives, so the story goes, became annoyed with these impositions and began making the pasta into larger shapes in hopes the priests would choke (read: strangle), die, and thereby stop coming over for dinner.)

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