Great Casual DC Dining Option (Campono)
Another place for DC-area forum members to consider (or those visiting from out of town); this one is on the very casual side. It is Campono (www.camponodc.com), located at the southern-most Watergate building (600 New Hampshire Ave, NW).
They make pizzas, hot sandwiches (have not tried), salads and gelati/ sorbetti. I first stopped in a couple weeks ago to try a gelato, and wound up getting a pizza bianca to take home. All were very good. We returned for gelato on Motherís Day and went tonight for pizzas, salads and, well, more gelato. The pizzas we tried tonight were very good,and my wife said the beet/ goat cheese salad she had held itís own against tkernís at Art & Soul (sorry, Travis! She really loved the one you made as well).
Campono is owned by Bob Kinkead, and he was there tonight carrying pizzas to tables. And while it is casual place, there is a real chef there -- Jeff Gaetjen (http://camponodc.com/jeffrey-jg-gaetjen). Jeff spent a couple weeks developing the pizza dough, and the result is a crust with a very nice elasticity/ chew. They char the crust a little just like in Napoli. Jeff also makes almost all of the pastries they sell alongside the gelati. He trained in France many years back (did I mention we went to high school together?), so he knows his pastry dough.
The format is basically walk up and order, and they will bring the food to your table when it is ready. There are a dozen or so tables outside, so good chance you can enjoy the outdoors when you visit, and afterwards itís nice to walk across the street and up onto the Kennedy Center terrace to view the river. Heck, it also a great place to eat before/ after a KC show.
They open early for breakfast, as a lot of their business comes from the condominium residents and people who work in the office portions of the buildings. So they close pretty early in the evening (9 pm orso). It was crowded tonight at around 6:15 pm, but by 7:30 only about ľ of the indoor and outdoor tables were still occupied.
This is yet another story of a restaurant really seeking out top-quality ingredients. They have some very small semi-local farms/ vendors where they source some of their best stuff. The freshness of the salad ingredients and some of the pizza toppings was very apparent tonight (e.g., the arugula tasted like it was harvested right out back when we placed our orders). Really good cheeses, blah, blah, blah. Why bother raving about it? Well, because it is very inexpensive. The pizzas are $13-$14, and a salad is $8-$9. Gelati/ sorbetti is priced the same as Pitango, etc., but it really tastes quite a bit better. Itís not quite at the level of Capogiro in Philly, but then again no one else in the country is, either.
We had a really delightful meal there tonight, punctuated by visits from both Chef Gaetjen and Mr. Kinkead, and our 15-month-old gave all the gelati/ sorbetti flavors a big thumbs up.
Campono is keeping Jeff busy while the adjacent Italian restaurant Ancora is undergoing renovation. In about 6 months Jeff will be moving back to Ancora to resume his normal duties. So definitely try to visit while he is still working there. And donít be shy -- if you visit, ask if Chef Gaetjen is available, and if you get to talk to him just mention you are another crazy kitchen knife nut like the guy he went to high school with.