Entering the new Campagna Euro Grille is like visiting the ghost of Christmas Past in a way. The restaurant, on the corner of Mohawk and Franklin, across the street from the convention center, has seen different eating places, at least two to my recollection. Neon signs of many colors have adorned the plate glass window through the years.
The restaurant's ownership has some history behind it, too. These are the people who owned Grille 91 on Niagara Square, which became Carlos O'Ryan's, a Mexican/Southwest chain establishment. This new place turns over a welcome new leaf. It's basically Italian and there's really quite a lot to choose from a tempting menu.
First, to set the scene: You can enter this long, narrow restaurant from either Franklin Street or Mohawk. The Franklin door opens into the barroom, where a few tables are arranged. It's down two steps to the dining room in the rear.
Decor is minimalist; this is very much a city restaurant. White tile floors, bentwood chairs, white tablecloths. At dinner, good music plays in the background. Not too loud, not too soft.
On one snowy evening last week, the place was almost empty when we entered. We could take our time choosing from an extensive menu divided between salads, pastas and main courses. The appetizers were especially interesting. For one thing, there's an Escargot of the Day -- a different snail preparation every 24 hours. In this area, is that not a first?
Our server told us the day's recipe was based on marinara sauce, and we knew our dinners were bound to involve that very thing. We reluctantly passed.
Instead we chose Involtini Melazane ($5.95), the most popular item, we were told, on the menu. Picture grilled eggplant slices each enclosing a filling of prosciutto and cheese. The dish rests in a complementary yogurt cheese sauce. Manhattan Clam Chowder was the soup of the day.
Tuscan Style Herb Marinated Filets ($14.95) were tender, juicy and presented on a handsome big dinner plate. The outer sings of the taste of thyme mostly and plenty of cracked pepper. There's a good tasting side dish of Pasta Marinara and really delicious carrots. Cut into thin slivers and cooked al dente, they were very delicately sweet.
Veal Saltimbocca ($14.95) is also very worthwhile. The veal is layered with prosciutto and tomato pesto and rests gently in the house marinara. The accompanying fettuccine alfredo, was prepared very well.
The noodles were very tasty -- no over-thickened cream sauce there.
With all this, there was room for dessert, especially when we discovered house-made Three Berry Pie was on the menu. Since we're totally shameless, we even asked for it to be served a la mode.
Sad to say there was no ice cream in the kitchen. Not too much of a hardship we later discovered, Excellent filling and excellent crust.
Other pastas on the menu include Fettuccine Carbonara with beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms, pancetta and peas in sage sauce ($12.95) and Linguine Fra Diavolo with Breast of Chicken ($10.95).
Entrees include Pesto Chicken Breast, grilled with plum tomatoes ($9.95). A grilled sirloin is finished in a bourbon and dijon mustard demi glaze ($16.95).
CAMPAGNA EURO GRILLE
166 Franklin St. (856-4849) Right in the heart of downtown Buffalo, this cozy new restaurant is providing interesting upscale Italian food. Salads, pastas and entrees are available. Also note: Escargot of the Day. Credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard.
BEST DISH: Involtini Melanzine.
NEEDS WORK: Food is of high quality.
PRICE RANGE: Dinners from $9.95 include salad and choice of pasta or potato. Pasta from $6. O SERVICE: Very good.
HOURS: Lunch, Monday through Friday. Dinner, Monday and Tuesday until 9 p.m.; Wednesday through Saturday until 10 p.m.
HEALTH-CONSCIOUS CHOICES: Many pastas, Seared Tuna.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes in front room.
PARKING: On the street.
KID APPEAL: No children's menu.
KEY: FAIR, GOOD, VERY GOOD, EXCELLENT, EXTRAORDINARY. Stars are awarded for the quality of the food only.
THE CODA (Dec. 17)
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THE VALLEY INN 1/2 (Dec. 10)
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NERO'S (Dec. 3)
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DECO * (Nov. 26)
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HUTCH'S (Nov. 19)
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FIDDLE HEADS (Nov. 12)
62 Allen St. (883-4166) A sophisticated looking restaurant at the corner of Franklin Street that also offers a very sophisticated menu. The menu itself is short but varied, food is prepared carefully. Pre-fixe menu a particularly good value.
IL FIORENTINO (Nov. 5)
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CLASSICS V (Oct. 29)
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DELPHIA'S BISTRO 1/2 * (Oct. 22)
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CALVANESO'S COSMOPOLITAN GRILLE * (Oct. 15)
5185 Transit Road, Clarence (633-6683) This restaurant even looks sophisticated. It's brand new, so only the smallish front barroom is currently serving meals. Sandwiches, pastas and main dishes are on the menu. Quite chic but the prices are relatively moderate.
GRAMMA MORA'S (Oct. 8)
1465 Hertel Ave. (835-9606) Much-loved Mexican restaurant has moved and reopened but the basically Tex Mex menu remains the same as it always was.