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3 stars in Waltham

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Restaurants & Bars 2

3 stars in Waltham

Joge Tsang | Mar 24, 2003 12:53 PM

3 stars in Waltham"

My wife and I once discovered this jewel in the 'wilds' of Waltham Mass; we found ourselves with precious leisure time somewhere in Belmont, our daughter had just gone off with some soccer friends and we had heard about this place called 'Tuscany Grille' in Waltham so we phoned. Their response was ' sorry we are full', but maybe we could try a place down the street called 'Campagna'. It was adorable, rustic and small. The kitchen was visible and the decor 'farmhouse' chic. But there was a line waiting to get in. The most memorable event was the when a man in kitchen garb stolled out and offered everyone a taste of homemade pizza. That was it! He won our hearts, so we waited stoically while our stomachs growled closer and closer to 9 pm. When we finally got in, we were rewarded with wonderful Tuscan style food. Crusty, peasant bread, good olive oil,and very tasty dishes in a somewhat noisey neighborhood atmosphere. For one evening We were transported to a local trattoria in Italy. *Three years later, and renovations anew, we tried to sample the food again. But now the restaurant was called 'Campania' and the decor was clearly 'upscale' tasteful; walls were painted a peach color, lights were carefully placed to create a romantic atmosphere, each table had a peach colored rose in a small vase. Gone were the noise, the clear view of the kitchen, and the snippets of Italian spoken by the old staff. Instead we were greeted by
a young waiter in white shirt, black pants who was a little too friendly for our taste, but very efficient. Short of saying,"Hi I am ...., I will be your waiter." he proceeded to announce their specials. We started with a glass of Amano primitivo, available by the glass: $7 each. Perusing their appetizers, we opted to try their house antipasto for one to share. It arrive in a enormous white plate symmetrically arranged leaving much empty spaces conspicuous. We tasted tiny slivers of roasted pepper 6 slices in all, a tiny wedge of spinach tart with a fried sage leaf
protuding from it, 3 slices each of of marinated fennel and eggplant, annointed with droplets of basil oil. We quickly demolished this delicate arrangement. The dining format
is similar to that in Italy, there are in sequence appetitos, primo or pastas, and secondi or main courses. Nibbling on the house bread, a soft and tasty onion bread, we ordered: My wife
chose the 'confit of duck' and I chose the "loin of lamb." In my opinion, the best dishes may be the pastas; we made quick work of their small plate of gnocchi sauced with sauteed' porcini mushrooms, arugula,and a tasty 'aged sliced ricotta.' We licked our chops wishing there were more of this delectable dish. My wife's confit was made well, although it seemed a bit salty, the skin was not crispy as promised. The sauce was overly sweet.
My lamb dish was superb. Four tender rare slices of lamb, loin portion, at least 1/2 inch thick were wrapped in spinach, the contrast of both textures worked very well. The potato seemed to be a farmhouse mashed, tasty but lumpy. I would give high marks for the quality of ingredients, and the efficiency of service, and excellence in preparation. The food tasted as if the chef was un-hurried, and enjoying preparing it. This 'Campania' could
benefit from offering diners more 'homestyle' specials, such as polenta,white beans, and featuring more air-cured meats from different provinces, as well as regional cheeses. All in all, it was satisfying despite the tiny portions.

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