Local Means All or Nothing at Campo Enoteca
By Tom Long / Photos by Stacy Milbouer
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Farm-to-table. Sounds good, but it’s a culinary style that is often just given lip service.
At Campo Enoteca, the Mediterranean-Italian bistro in Manchester, they don’t just talk a good entree, they really seek out local purveyors and celebrate their contributions to the menu.
During a recent lunch, server Michelle Bissonnette was able to tell a diner that the halibut, the day’s special, was caught on a fishing boat called the Olympia. She apologized to another diner because the burger special was no longer available but returned a few minutes later to report that the truck from Little Brook Farm in Epping had just arrived and burgers were back.
“We use as many local ingredients as possible,” said Chef Justin Novitch, who dropped by to chat during the same lunch service and said the menu and specials are inspired by whatever the freshest local ingredients are available each day.
The menu that day included dishes made with butternut squash from Moulton Farm in Meredith, heirloom tomatoes from Rusty’s Tomato Acre in Dunbarton, beef from Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, eggs from Eric’s Farm Stand in Pelham and pork from Cragged Mountain Farm in Freedom.
And the list goes on. Literally. Each day local purveyors’ names go up on a blackboard.
Everything at Campo is made from scratch, including the pasta, baked goods and their own limoncello. Cured meats and cheeses for the chacuterie boards are sliced and prepared at a station in the middle of the restaurant for all to see.
Like the produce, dairy and proteins that inspire him, Novitch, 32, is also locally sourced. He has been chef at Campo Enoteca since it opened on Elm Street in 2014. The menu is a celebration of Mediterranean cuisine with creative dishes featuring local ingredients with an Italian accent.
There is chicken Marsala with handmade tagliatelle and poultry from Misty Knoll Farm in Vermont, butternut squash ravioli featuring veggies from Moulton Farm and vegan mushroom bucatini featuring fungi from Dunks Mushroom Farm in Brentwood.
Campo means square, or gathering place, in Italian, and enoteca is a “wine repository” or wine bar. There is a great selection of red and white Italian wines, available by the bottle or the glass.
“We have a devoted clientele of repeat customers,” said Bissonette, who has worked at the restaurant for 11 years.
Campo is owned by husband-wife team, Edward Aloise and Claudia Rippee. The dishes are inspired by their extensive travels in Europe. After considerable time abroad, observing European attitudes toward food, art and community, the couple worked to bring that experience to the Queen City — at Campo and their sister eatery, Republic, a block away on Elm.
They were also devoted to the idea of respecting the environment and the use of local ingredients.
The couple previously owned and operated Café Pavone in Manchester and the Milltown Grille that ended its 20-year-run at Manchester-Boston Regional before Campo opened. Also, an art photographer, Rippee’s black and white images of Italian art and architecture grace the walls of this intimate, urban eatery.
Novitch is currently special development chef at both Campo and Republic.
“I have always loved to cook,” said Novitch, who first learned the art at the elbow of his mother, who is of Italian descent.
It was that and a chance dinner out that led him to his career at a young age.
“My parents were having dinner at Baldwin on Elm and told the owner that I loved to cook and asked if they might hire me, and they did,” he said. “I started two days after I turned 16. I remember because you have to be 16 to use a knife at work.”
He later studied baking and cooking at Manchester School of Technology and earned a degree at New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Novitch worked for the couple at the Milltown Grille at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and has been chef at Campo since it opened.
And Campo, as well as Republic, are the real thing in the farm-to-table movement. Rippee told Fiddlehead that while a lot of eateries claim to be farm-to-table they often add disclaimers of “local whenever possible.”
“We drink the Kool-Aid here,” she said. “It’s all or nothing,”