Shake + Stir: Campagnia Restaurant
Donna Kaczmarski asked three Fresno ladies to join her for the fourth installment of Shake+Stir, this time held at Campagnia Restaurant in northern Fresno’s Champlain and Perrin Shopping Center. Campagnia’s owner, Tony Sciola, selected a sampler menu composed of four cocktails and six appetizers, prepared by Chef Floro Burgnosen, for Jude Lanfranco, Kelly Talant, and Linda Smittcamp, to enjoy over the course of the evening.
Tony welcomed the ladies with the Patio Sparkler cocktail in hand. The sparkling wine, Stoli Razz vodka, 7UP, and cranberry juice concoction was a refreshing invitation for everyone to take a seat in the heart of the restaurant. The ambiance in Campagnia is seductive, attributed to the warm lighting against subdued yet contemporary décor and its dark ceiling.
Proteas, Oriental lilies, and spider mums highlighted the floral table arrangement, made by Simply Flowers’ Mariah Walton, which also included colorful ranunculus, lavender armeria, and a variety of eucalyptus leaves in a glossy black rose bowl.
First out was the Fresh Mozzarella & Sun Dried Tomato Bruschetta, with arugula, balsamic drizzle, pecorino cheese, and an unexpected burst of chili pesto, which was an instant hit. “It’s not like the other (bruschetta) you get,” raved Jude. Linda eagerly agreed that it had, “a great kick!”
Description alone of the Roasted Pear & Applewood Bacon Pizza, with Gorgonzola cheese, then topped with a bed of wild arugula, elicited excitement. Jude was drawn in by “the aroma of bacon and the combination of sweet and salty.”The pear added a lovely sweetnessto the subtle onion flavor, which Kelly really appreciated.
By now the women were opening up about their individual interests; a love of travel is one thing they all had in common. Everyone agreed that trying different foods is the best way to experiencing other cultures. Few restaurants in Fresno boast a spectrum of culinary experiences like Campagnia. It offers an eclectic menu of California Bistro Cuisine. What makes Campagnia special is its ability to encompass so many types of food individually well; each dish can stand alone as unique.
A shift from Italian flavors to Asian infusion began with the Cool Cucumber cocktail, made with Cucumber vodka, fresh lemon juice, and muddled cucumber, which Jude raved about for its simplicity and crispness. A frequent Campagnia patron, Linda said she was looking forward to sipping on this drink come summer.
Hands down, the Savory Fresh Water Prawns, with orange-tarragon glaze, was this crowd’s favorite dish of the evening. “This is our favorite!” declared the women at the table with immediate conviction. Kelly, Linda, and Jude agreed that they liked this appetizer best because, unlike coconut shrimp, the prawns’ crust was crispy yet moist.
Seared Ahi Tuna was presented with a Fuji Apple Salad, and served with a sauce trio of soy, chipotle aioli, and peanut drizzle. The tangy apples were cut to resemble a coleslaw consistency. When eaten together, the union of tender fish with crunchy Fuji allowed for an entirely new textural experience.
Kelly shared a personal goal to fully experience life by pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Life experience and career paths were hot topics amid the ladies all evening, and each shared how they found fulfillment in giving back to the community...and grandkids, which both Linda and Jude have.
A Spicy Raspberry Margarita, made with Espolon tequila, Cointreau, fresh lemon and lime juices, and muddled jalapeños and raspberries livened up the mood. “Wow!” both Kelly and Linda exclaimed simultaneously. The jalapeño was indeed unexpected, yet not overpowering.
The Pork & Shrimp Pot Stickers were served with marinated French green beans, soy-citrus sauce and chili pasta. Jude noted that the combination of ground pork and shrimp had the consistency of sausage, which she liked because of how well it stayed together when dipped in sauce. The ladies loved how the perfectly al dente string beans complimented the pot stickers, and the light tossing in soy-citrus sauce made them just different enough.
Last but not least was the Mac & Cheese, made with cheddar, asiago, and Gorgonzola cheeses, with Applewood bacon, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes, then topped with toasted breadcrumbs, which made this dish anything but ordinary. “This is one of David’s favorites!” Donna revealed in reference to her CVLUX partner. This was clearly a noted favorite beyond the ladies at present.
Dessert came in liquid form. “Oh yeah!” Jude shouted as the waitress described Campagnia’s Italian Espresso Martini, which was made with fresh brewed espresso, Bailey’s, whipped vodka, and Kahlua. Jude immediately decided this was her favorite drink of the night...before it even came out!
“Now this is quality!” Linda proclaimed with delight. Though served chilled, this martini could be enjoyed year-round, and everyone agreed that it was the perfect way to end any day.
Going into 2018, curiosity as to New Year’s resolutions surfaced. “It’s a fresh start,” remarked Linda. “I don’t make them!” Jude declared with a laugh. Donna said she felt the New Year started with the crispness of fall, while Kelly said she felt it started with the freshness of spring. Though these ladies had altering views on the representation of New Year’s Eve, at least they could all agree how very blessed they felt to be ushering in another year.
Managing Editor Lauren Barisic
Photographer Don Dizon
Florals Simply Flowers