Food & Drink » Dining

La Dolce Vita

Ari Rosen has another hit on his hands with Campo Fina

by

comment
SPICE OF LIFE Small plates are the winners at Campo Fina, right around the corner from Ari Rosen's other popular spot, Scopa. - STETT HOLBROOK
  • Stett Holbrook
  • SPICE OF LIFE Small plates are the winners at Campo Fina, right around the corner from Ari Rosen's other popular spot, Scopa.

There's a strong family resemblance between Scopa and newcomer Campo Fina, owner Ari Rosen's spin-off restaurant around the corner. The two Italian eateries in downtown Healdsburg are both long and narrow, with moody lighting. The intimate, urbane spaces fill up quickly, so to those who snag a table, it feels like a small victory.

But other than the sibling restaurants' specialty in Italian cuisine, the similarities stop there. Campo Fina might look similar to Scopa coming in the door, but the real draw is the spacious patio and bar out back. It's wine country mythology brought to life—warm nights, locally sourced Mediterranean food and flowing wine enjoyed by relaxed, good-looking people. The bocce ball court at the rear of the courtyard adds to the dolce vita vibe that pervades the place.

And unlike Scopa, Campo Fina serves just small plates and pizza from two separate kitchens: one for the impeccably prepared little dishes, and the other across the patio where wonderfully thin-crust pies are pulled from an oak- and madrone-fueled brick oven.

Small plates are a great way to dine. It's no wonder the concept has had such staying power. Starters are usually the best part of a restaurant's menu; just point your finger at Campo Fina's, and you'll come up with a winner.

I loved the hard-boiled eggs with salsa verde and pickled celery ($4.50) from the "all day" menu, a list of bites served during lunch and dinner. It's a great warm-up dish for things to come, as is the little salad of green beans and sunflower seeds in a sherry vinaigrette ($6). Nothing fancy. Just simple, good food. For something more substantial, the sweet burrata cheese plate with grilled bread, roasted eggplant, caramelized figs, Calabrian chiles and smoked olive oil ($12.50) is another good opener.

Campo Fina does seafood quite well. I loved the albacore crudo ($13.50), glistening chunks of the briny-sweet fish paired with fennel, shaved watermelon radish and sea beans on a base of tart yogurt. Good, too, is the brothy rock cod with supremely light gnocchi ($13.50), though best of all may be the charred octopus ($13.50). Octopus can be as tough and chewy as an eraser, but here it's supremely tender, and great paired with chunks of skin-on roasted potatoes, wild chicory and black olives.

The mark of a good cook is his ability to turn something simple into something great. Case in point: the honey-roasted carrots with coriander seeds and bread crumbs ($7.50). The long, skinny whole carrots are blistered to a beautiful dark orange and sprinkled with the aforementioned ingredients. Simple. Delicious.

PIE HIGH Pizza at Campo Fina is thin but nicely chewy. - STETT HOLBROOK
  • Stett Holbrook
  • PIE HIGH Pizza at Campo Fina is thin but nicely chewy.

And then there's the pizza. Here again the restaurant scores by getting the simple things right. Making great pizza is far from simple, but Campo Fina makes it look easy with a thin but chewy crust and a spare application of sauce and toppings. The margherita ($13.50) is a classic, and the afumata ($16.50) layers on flavors of smoke from the oven with smoked bufala mozzarella, red onions, friggitello peppers and juicy chunks of braised pork belly.

In addition to the food, the other highlight at Campo Fina is the beverage menu. The Italian-leaning wine list has several gems, but the beer and wine cocktails warrant special attention. The drinks ($8) were developed by Erika Frey, who took over at Cyrus after star mixologist Scott Beattie left. Some of my favorites were La Biretta (Moretti beer; Cocchi Americano, a coveted Italian aperitif wine; lemon juice; orange spice syrup; and Angostura bitters) and the Fiori de Sambuca (Dolin Blanc, a delicate French vermouth; elderflower syrup; lemon juice; grapefruit bitters; and anise). These are masterful, wonderfully refreshing drinks you're not going to find anywhere else.

If that's not persuasive enough, there's also Russian River Brewery's Damnation on tap, one of the best beers on the planet.

As the crowds of people both out front and inside attest, Rosen has another hit on his hands with Campo Fina's casual yet sophisticated food served at reasonable prices in a friendly, good-looking setting. What's not to like?

Add a comment