June 4, 2008 > Campanella
It is billed as "Modern Italian Cuisine." Whatever the definition, this local restaurant creates a dilemma. Those who have discovered Campanella's fresh look, outstanding ambiance and exquisite taste and presentation are torn between keeping it a personal secret and telling their friends about the discovery of a "10."
The greater Tri-City area, with its extensive geography, can be challenging for those who prefer fine dining. Many dining establishments qualify for serious examination but share a common difficulty. Similar to hidden treasure, they may require a bit of effort to find, but the reward those who take the effort, is substantial. Campanella Owner/Executive Chef Elvis Calderon knows his restaurant belongs in this elite category. He has pledged to use only the freshest ingredients to create an outstanding culinary experience for his customers. Lulu Lopez-Calderon, co-owner and the chef's spouse, also adheres to the signature of fine dining. She makes sure the restaurant is always clean, neat and diners are treated as honored guests. Success of this team approach is evident for all those that enter.
Campanella is not the result of a last minute decision or a response to economic expediency. The Calderons have planned every detail of their operation and are proud to show all aspects to visitors. Everything from kitchen and dining room design to outstanding bathroom facilities are maintained at an optimum level. Elvis has been working in restaurants "all my life" with his father, a successful Venezuelan restaurateur. He and Lulu chose their Newark location with an eye toward nearby hotels and the opportunity to provide a fine dining experience for the community. Although the location is a bit challenging - located behind a shopping center and next to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Newark - the reward is well worth the effort.
The definition of "modern Italian" becomes evident when entering the restaurant; traditional ambiance of wood and checkered tablecloths is replaced by a new, modern look. "The essence of the cuisine is not necessarily modern," said Lulu. "It's the concept of bringing traditional Italian cuisine to America." She added that many in this country think of Italian food as meat balls, spaghetti and lasagna. "In Italy, that is not necessarily what will be found at a countryside restaurant. Instead, menu selection is filled with fresh food available with each season. "If tomatoes are in season that is what you will find." Fortunately, fresh ingredients are plentiful in this area. Elvis even grows herbs behind the restaurant for the ultimate fresh taste.
Italian cuisine begs for a good selection from the vineyard and Campanella will not disappoint in this category either. A worldwide selection including fine Italian wines, of course, will accommodate any preference.
The menu at Campanella is filled with familiar entrees rooted in Italian cuisine, but served with a flair that hints of Caribbean, European, cosmopolitan Venezuela and a California influence. Elvis emphasizes, "Everything is fresh including seafood; I make my own sauces, dressings, desserts and bread." Antipasti, ensalada, zuppa, pasta, seafood and meat specialties are cooked to perfection and presented as a work of art. It is almost a shame to disturb the composition, but the personal preparation of these visual feasts cannot be denied the ultimate taste test. Next up is the piece de resistance...dessert. The culinary skills of Chef Elvis are evident throughout the meal, but the final palate performance leaves diners with a flavor treat that will complete an ultimate experience whether the selection is homemade Cr¸me Brulee, cheesecake, chocolate truffle, Tiramisu or gelato.
The result is not only a highly satisfying dining experience, but a comfortable venue for a leisurely antipasto plate or panini sandwich and house salad with a glass of wine at the bar. Prices are very reasonable; Elvis and Lulu are interested creating a habitual and pleasurable culinary destination without the empty feeling of a seriously depleted wallet afterward. Offering an excellent mix of ambiance, style, service and haute cuisine is a rare occurrence anywhere, but an opportunity to expand the local list of fine restaurants is akin to finding a polished diamond in your backyard. Campanella is a rare find.
34903 Newark Blvd., Newark
Monday - Friday 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Monday - Thursday 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 5:00 pm - 9:30 p.m.
Weekends open after 10 p.m. for wine and tapas (appetizers).
Closed on Sundays