In light of the economy and changing consumer tastes, upscale chefs all over the country have set their sights on creating more affordable, casual restaurants. The latest to embrace this trend is Bob Kinkead, a Washington, DC, legend and operator of acclaimed Kinkead’s Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue.
His newest restaurant is Campono, an Italian fast-casual concept in the Watergate Complex across from Kennedy Center. The self-serve restaurant specializes in wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza. The menu also features hot and cold subs, salads and house-made gelato and sorbet.
In addition to lunch and dinner, Campono also serves breakfast, including breakfast pizza and sandwiches, pastries, coffee and espresso drinks.
The 55-seat café has an additional 40 seats outside. It’s named after a village in Italy where some of Kinkead’s family lives. The décor features design touches such as light granite, oak and black steel. Colorful murals surround stacks of wood all around the restaurants. That wood is used to stoke the pizza oven.
The highlight of the menu is the hand-rolled pizzas, which are cooked in an 800-degree woodburning oven and can be purchased whole or by the slice. Few fast-casual restaurants across the country are as ambitious as Campono, which seeks to offer authentic Neapolitan pizzas with ingredients such as garlic confit, broccoli rabe, braised escarole, imported olives, pancetta, oven-dried tomatoes and white anchovies.
Whole pizzas selected from a list of several styles (including Margharita, Rustica and Abbruzzo), cost from $9-$15 for a small, while larger pies command a price upward of $18. Customers can also choose to create their own, with toppings ranging from $1 to $5.
Though pizza is the focus, Campono’s subs are equally as sophisticated. Consider, for example, cold versions like the Diavolo, which includes spicy sopressata, salami, coppa, Calabrian sausage, onion and mozzarella ($9), or the Palermo—tuna conserva, olive oil, artichoke, egg, arugula, roasted peppers, tapenade ($9.50).
Hot subs are also available and include Stacotto, beef brisket, onion agrodolce, spicy slaw and horseradish sauce ($10), and Arosta and Sausage—herb-roasted pork, sausage, broccoli rabe, green olive salad ($9.50).
Sandwich add-ons, for 50 cents, are terrific and include items such as fennel agrodulce, Sicilian olive-celery relish and caponata.
Salads at Campono may not be as creative as the pizzas and subs, but keep in mind that a world-class chef is behind their preparation, so a Salad Nicoise or Asian Chicken Salad, for example, is a steal for around $10.
Kinkead says the inspiration for Campono was the desire to create a quick-service restaurant that offers exceptional food. “I wanted to crate a family-oriented concept where guests could grab a fast meal that still features seasonal flavors and made-from-scratch ingredients,” he explains.
He’s accomplished that in spades, and the Watergate crowd couldn’t be happier.