Campagnolo – Vancouver, BC

1020 Main St.
Vancouver, BC

Campagnolo on Urbanspoon


I have been sitting on this report now for a few weeks. I’m not really sure why I hesitated to publish it. It could be that it sort of broke a minor rule I have of only reporting on smaller, more under the radar sort of places. Campagnolo does not fit this mold for sure. It had received a lot of good publicity from Vancouver’s food press…rightly so. It is a good restaurant that has a lot going for it.


Campagnolo is operated by the group who run Fuel over on the West side of the city. Fuel is a great restaurant with the kind of ethic that this area of the world is known: organic, locally sourced ingredients, “nose to tail” philosophy, talented cooks. Campagnolo is much the same. As a matter of fact, the kitchen had a deer hanging in it getting ready to be prepped “nose to tail” (from primal cuts of meat all the way to the nasty bits that end up in their pate and cured sausages.) The group has also started up a small retail/in-house curing operation cleverly called “The Cure” which will supply Fuel, Campagnolo, and retail.

Campagnolo attempts to serve “rustic” Italian food from the countryside of Peidmont and Emiglia-Romagna. I have a positive bias towards rustic and homey food so I was very interested to see how Campagnolo attempts this style of presentation.


My friend and I started with the Cecci – deep fried chickpeas that have the same kind of addicting quality as good peanuts. The outer skin had a pleasing papery crispness which acted as a counterpoint to the creaminess of the chickpea. The skin was somewhat dark and caramelized…perhaps they pre-marinated it with a sweet concoction prior to deep frying it.


The next dish was their Octopus Salad. It wasn’t exemplary as the Octopus itself tasted strongly fishy. It’s supposed to taste slightly fishy, but this was a bit much…and for comparison, I have had similar dishes elsewhere were the octopus tasted much more refined and subtle.


The we moved on to the salumi platter consisting of pate and cured sausages – all house made of course. This cold plate was decent enough…nothing spectacular and certainly nothing that I wouldn’t be able to source right in my neighbourhood. Perhaps they are still in the process of experimenting and improving their recipes and techniques at The Cure, but so far, the salumi fails to impress. Oddly, it didn’t come with the obligatory bread. I did ask for some at an extra cost…but it is an odd choice on their part to not have included it. The pate certainly would not have worked at all without bread.


The next dish was their tagliarini with pork ragu. The noodles where thin and perfectly cooked…the ragu was nicely prepared and seasoned. The shreds of pork were very tender – perhaps a bit past where it should have been because I felt it lacked ‘bite’ in the texture.


We finished with their Olive Oil cake…this was the most pleasing part of the meal. I’m always surprised how well Olive Oil works as a dessert ingredient – it imparts a floral, fruitiness to this dish. It worked very well with the semolina cake base, vanilla cream and the caramelized pear.


Overall, a fine meal. Campagnolo is a very nice addition to the city’s Casual Fine Dining scene – and it certainly is a very nice, but oddly juxtaposed addition to this very sketchy underbelly of a neighbourhood. It is also refreshing to see some real Regional Italian food instead of the usual generic Italian I normally see. Yet, a few weeks after dining there, I still feel unexcited about this place (quite unlike the feelings I have about Campagnolo’s sister restaurant, Fuel). As I wrote this report, I started to understand. Perhaps its limited and focused menu needs no more exploration on my part – and sampling a few dishes was enough for me to say “I get it.” Perhaps it didn’t feel quite “rustic” enough…it felt too fine? Maybe Italian food just doesn’t excite me as much as other cuisines?

The food was good, the service was excellent, the space was interesting, but I have no real compulsion to return.

Campagnolo on Urbanspoon


13 thoughts on “Campagnolo – Vancouver, BC

  1. Glad to see the post completed, had been waiting to read the full article. 🙂

    The word-of-mouth that I’ve come across/heard on this place has been a mixed bag – with those raving about it and others not so enthused. Perhaps its the connection to the widely lauded Fuel that drives some of these impressions to be halo-effect supportive or shockingly disappointed. Regardless, it was good to hear your take on the experience despite the fact that you’ve come to the verdict it may not hold the “it” factor to bring you back for repeat visits.

    Lastly, as a non-baker or true dessert aficionado, I’m intrigued by the apparent growth of these olive oil-ingredient cakes. This month while dining at Gastropod, I saw it on the menu as well, but was gun-shy to give it a try (and chose a more orthodox chocolate-based concoction).

  2. For me, there is something “missing” in the Campagnolo formula. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but part of it is definitely the faux-authenticity (fauxthenticity?) of the place. It all feels too contrived – which I guess is common in Casual Fine Dining. I expected more from the Fuel team….perhaps it will take them some time to find their legs.

    On olive oil…yes I have notice that explosion of olive oil in desserts. I though it’s a little odd at first….but when you think of it, butter actually tastes more savoury than olive oil….yet it is a common dessert ingredient. Conversely, I found it odd to find chocolate used in Mexican Mole….but that too works 🙂

  3. Gastro, i have to say, im shocked. I’ve been looking forward to this too, mostly because the word of mouth i’ve heard has been extremely positive. This was definitely a surprise review for me.

    However, you highlighted one thing that is easily controllable, yet wrong. Missing bread with charcuterie. Dear word do i ever hate this. Who orders cured meats, and eats them plain? And charging extra for this is the same (for me anyway) as charging for tea at a chinese or japanese restaurant – it bugs me 🙂

    Do you know what kind of pork they are using for their charcuterie?

    As for olive oil, definitely. I first saw it at Otto in NYC in one of their gelatos – it was sublime. It really was the highlight of the desserts for me. Glad to see more people working with this.

    Thanks for the great review!

  4. Just to be clear…I liked the meal there (flawed as it was)….but I just don’t feel like I have to return — Quite unlike at some of my favourite restaurants where scan the menu and point out items I definitely want to try and would have to return to do it.

    On Pork:

    They are using pigs from Sloping Hill – the organic producer at Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island. I don’t know which particular breed they used for the salumi. (Sloping Hill supplies Kurobota, Berkshire, Duroc, etc.) Both Fuel and Campagnolo bring in whole sides and butcher it in-house. (I you haven’t indulged in Fuel’s regular nose-to-tail dinner, you really must!)

    • Nod, i understand you liked it. But for me, i guess i was expecting something more…unique. A place worth revisiting. It doesnt sound like they are doing anything out of the ordinary to the point where it is worth revisiting again and again.

      As for pork – i havent tried Fuel’s nose-to-tail dinner – i will make that a priority for the next time im in Van. Thanks for the info on Sloping Hill – i wish i knew what breed, but that’s a great start.

      • I just thought of a contrast – if you have been to Au Pied du Cochon in Montreal you might agree that they do a good job at “rustic.” The food, presentation, everything just oozes personality (IMO). Perhaps that is what Campagnolo is really missing: personality.

        • I LOVE APDC – wretched excess, but an amazing experience. It is rustic, but in an apropriate way. That helps put it in perspective – doesnt change that im disappointed. I wanted it to be lights out 😦

  5. If there is something better than a review from you guys, it’s a follow up in-depth discussion among three of you. Great little extra tidbits!

    • >raidar
      Thanks for raising that valuable point! It is the essence of what we’re trying to achieve here, a place for ideas to be shared and thrown around by many voices. Given the range of eating experiences by our collection of contributors, hopefully we can touch on many topics, restaurants, etc. that appeal to just about everyone who comes across our site (be it regular readers such as yourself or one-off visitors who have come via a search engine).

      I know folks like gastronomydomine and foodosopher have unique insights and experiences that are much different from my own, so even as a contributor, I really enjoy the banter and learning from these wise sages. 🙂 Feel free to join in as I think there is value in going off on somewhat related tangents that arise from each post/review. As we all know, food and discussion on it, is endless!

  6. Not sure if call it coincidence; I was driving nearby and noticed this restaurant, which stood out in its own way. Of course, those who do not live in Vancouver won’t understand this part: it is located in Main Street, a couple of blocks south of Main and Hastings, centre of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

    I second Raidar’s opinion. This post and its follow-ups were really interesting. When I saw the pictures, before fully reading the post itself, I noticed something strange. Visually was good; however, there was something, to quote gastro, “missing”. Now, not sure if it was personality; but, again, based on pictures, if it as if it was missing balance.

    • I think i follow what you’re saying KH – there is something visually odd. I think visually what bothers me the most is the white plates – esp on the charcuterie. Could you have elements “hanging” any worse than that?

      The earthen ware pot that the chick peas are served in is more what i would expect – homestyle, rustic, classic. The only plate that looks right is tagliarini with pork ragu – that’s a sexy looking dish 🙂

      Gastro – Funny that you thought it lacked enough bite – in some ways, i would be looking for the bite/contrast from a different ingredient. Say, the addition of mushrooms, or artichokes. The ragu sounds perfect to me!

      • In long cooked ragus, the meat will definitely be meltingly soft and tender….and since they used chunks instead of ground pork, that tenderness was accentuated. Perhaps that contrast from another ingredient is really what I was looking for.

        I have to say though, I like photographing food on white dishes.

        • Amen to that. Looks so clean and fantastic. And really brings the focus onto the food. I guess on white plates, it should fill the plate. I’ve found those long white platters to need a lot of “body”, as a few elements just look lost in the sea of white.

          Looking forward to hearing about your next adventure – this one is stimulating my “itch” a bit 🙂 Gotta get out there and try more!

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