The Glory of Campana

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Campana’s inaugural menu.

Last week I had the chance to have a meal at Campana, the new east coast Italian restaurant located in the front of Grand Army Tavern. I had eaten there during their Italian Night/Pasta Night pop up over the summer, and was really happy eating that food. The housemade pastas were tender with substance and the sauces were delicious. I was kinda blown away that my meal at Campana was even better! My dining companion, Jen, was also really happy with her meal.

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Heavenly garlic cheese bread

We both chose pasta for dinner, but I went with the Pasta Dinner special: three courses—a salad, pasta dish, and dessert—for $35. But we started with the four cheese garlic bread, which was outstanding. It arrived in two good-sized pieces and bursting with flavor—the cheeses seemed to have melted into the bread and there was a little spiciness from the scattering of red pepper flakes on top of it. We both couldn’t get over how delicious it was. If you’re not vegan and if you can digest dairy, don’t miss it; highly recommended.

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Stracci

My pasta choice was the Stracci, a dish I was unfamiliar with. It was made with wide egg noodles and thinly-sliced porcini mushrooms joined the pasta. There was sofrito and gremolata involved, and I was particularly delighted with the bits of lemon zest I detected throughout, adding the kind of freshness to a dish that only citrus zest can. Texture of the noodles was so lovely, and it was a joy to eat.

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Rigatoni with pork ragu

Jen got the same dish I had last time, the rigatoni with pork ragu, and it was, again, better than last time. I think there was a little more sauce this time, or perhaps the sauce was thicker. Apparently it made for a delicious breakfast the next morning, too.

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Arugula salad with irresistible crunchy pieces

Backing up a bit, my first course was the arugula salad, which was enthusiastically recommended by our server.  When they brought it over I thought it was a mistake—it was huge! The size was a little intimidating. And while it ended up being truly manageable, it was still enough for two people; in fact, a table of four could easily enjoy this and feel satisfied.

The salad was topped with “bread crumbs” but those are pretty honkin’ big crumbs. The addictive crunchiness level went up to 11 and it made the salad in its pickled pepper vinaigrette super fun to eat. There was also a dusting of Parmesan cheese, adding a bit of richness to the salad.

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Ricotta cheesecake topped with pistachios and blueberry jam

For dessert I chose the ricotta cheesecake topped with a healthy portion of toasted pistachios and a chunky, lightly sweetened blueberry jam. By the time this course arrived, the light had shifted dramatically, so apologies for the quality of the photo. My only complaint about this was the that size felt huge—a third to a half of it could be removed and it would still feel substantial.

However, I ate it all (with a little help from Jen), as the texture was ridiculously creamy, especially for a ricotta cheesecake, which can be a little grainy. It still maintained its lightness, and the nuts added a good crunch and earthy sweetness. The blueberries were quite nice, but other berries could easily substitute at other times of the year.

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The Almond-Lime Spritz, a exceptional dry cocktail

Before I go, I have to highlight this Almond Lime Spritz, one of Grand Army Tavern’s House No Proof Drinks. It’s made of limeade, orgeat syrup, and sparkling water—that’s it. It’s a striking and memorable drink—first you’d get hit with the tartness of the lime; the warmth of the orgeat/almond follows and they both mix with the bubbly effervescence of the sparkling water. It was really fun to drink; I loved it.

Campana’s hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 5-9pm. They hope to get the week’s menu posted on the website early in the week. Along with the pastas, but there are more substantial mains like beef cheek, pork Milanese, and trout.

I can’t end this post without thanking my Instagram pal Teri, who got us the reservation in the first place; unfortunately she was unable to be there that night due to a last minute change in plans. We missed her and I hope to share a meal with her and her husband very soon.

Thanks to the staff at Campana, who helped make our time last week a great experience. I’m already looking forward to my next meal there.

Campana (at Grand Army Tavern)
901 NE Oneonta Street, Portland, Oregon
campanapdx.com | Instagram

Disclaimer: this meal was not comped.

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Bridgetown Bites is written by Meg Cotner, a food loving freelance writer, editor and published author in Portland, OR.

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