“Oh, is that open yet?” I’m talking with a Northern Westchester restaurateur. Like many, even some hyper-locals, he hadn’t realized that Campagna had opened its doors around Halloween. (Even some hyper-locals hadn’t realized.) There are soft openings, and then there is the nearly secret opening of Campagna, Chef Michael White’s new venture at Richard Gere’s boutique hotel/restaurant complex, Bedford Post. How unlike the gossipy ballyhoo attending the opening of The Farmhouse, Campagna’s predecessor in the star-owned space.
The unassuming interior of Campagna is a good reminder that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
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Campagna’s understated décor has hardly been changed from that of The Farmhouse. Its elegantly monochromatic putty, pewter, and platinum tones are easy on the eye, but the room can feel generic. This quality prompted one of my guests to look around and muse, “This could be a dining room in a very expensive hospital.” Future plans for Campagna include expansion onto Bedford Post’s patio and the reintroduction of its wood-burning grill. When this gets going, this space may deliver all the sensual seductions—i.e., the perfume of wood-fired meats under the stars—that Campagna’s dining room currently lacks.
Cocktails, like Campagna’s Fiore d’Arancio (Old Forester bourbon, Madeira, and Ramazzotti amaro), are deliciously on-trend—but whatever you do, don’t skip a dip into the wine list in lieu of cocktails. The Barbaresco Fenocchio is worth its own trip.
Experience always tells, and Chef Michael White is a pro. As the head of the Altamarea Group, White operates 14 restaurants that spin outward from his Manhattan base to reach Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, and even—Eek!—New Jersey. Try as you might (and I did—it is my job, after all), you will find few faults with the technically deft food served at Campagna.
Salata Di Mare
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Don’t skip antipasti—they’re delicious. A salad (helpfully named “mare”) of perfectly cooked and marinated fishes and vegetables—octopus, shrimp, scallop, fennel, tomato conserva, Taggiasca olives—was perfect. Its conserved grape tomatoes tasted of high summer, while its fennel offered perfumed crunch, and each individual bite of seafood was a silken, sensual gem sitting in a fragrant broth of lemon, olive oil, and magic. Don’t miss the insalata di astice (Nova Scotia lobster, celery root caponata, black truffle, and chervil). The bursting little chunks of lobster may have been more taut and juicy on the first try than the next, but overall, this dish is seductive.
Which is not to suggest that Campagna’s menu caters only to lithe, calorie-phobic denizens of Bedford. Both the terrina di maiale (pork cheek terrine, pistachios, carrot) and polpa (charred octopus, pork belly, cocoa beans, and mint) will appeal to brawnier appetites. But here’s a warning: Only fools skip pastas at Campagna, so lighter starts might win the day. Consider sharing a pasta course; there is no charge for splitting.
The rotolo, a fat, baked roulade of wide noodles alternating with mild, sweetly porky Bolognese bianco, is a feat of craftsmanship. The spiral of noodle retains the silken texture underneath a brown layer of crunch. Hollow, helix-shaped fusilli in a classic tomato ragu with basil and ricotta are also exemplary. One could go on for days about how beautifully each little curl yields to the bite. Tortelli—pretty pasta enveloping feather-light pork shoulder mousse—were equally stunning. Bizarrely, the single off-note in all three meals was listed under pasta, but was not actually pasta. Risotto (riso aquarello, Barolo, short rib, bone marrow) was an overly salted, gray glop in which the grains of rice had lost all individuality. Worse, its garnishing slab of pressed short rib held all the appeal of Spam.
The standout main is, of all things, the bistecca (rib eye, bone marrow panzarella, roasted onion, red wine sugo, aged balsamic). It’s a carnal bite—a beefeater’s dish—all sparklingly seasoned beef, juice, and char, perfect for spreading with the creamy cloves of balsamic-laced roasted garlic that are served in a bisected head. Even chicken cacciatori gets an elegant upgrade in which the legs were fried and braised in pomodoro, but the breast remained whole and roasted. Woodsy cremini mushrooms, briny olives, and ricotta salata nicely offset the dish’s dairy-rich polenta.
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Desserts at Campagna don’t dial it in—both the bomboloni (top, Italian donuts) and semifreddo (bottom) make for a satisfyingly authentic end to your meal.
Oh, but you’re not done yet. Not even close. If you can catch it, the dense, kulfi-like pignoli semifreddo capped with tart but sweet Concord grape granita was stunning. It was paired with rosemary sabayon, crunchy green apple shavings, bursting little grapes, and pine nut croquant. Less elitist, bomboloni are little donuts with tangy sweet ricotta, chocolate sauce, and honey; and the torta di limone, a killingly portioned roulade, was—if you can imagine it—an elegant, more distinctly lemony ode to those slabs of deli lemon pound cake. And I mean that in the nicest way.
Food 3.5/4 | Service 2/4 | Atmosphere 2/4 | Cost $$$$
954 Old Post Rd
(914) 234-6386; campagna-bedford.com