The first thing to know about Campania is that there are no pictures of the menu online, anywhere. You just have to go off the strength of their Instagram feed (it’s pretty strong TBF, lots of sun-soaked filters and fresh sardines).
The next thing is, when you get there, the menu is written all in Italian. And not the easy to understand Italian that you can muddle through (although I did get green tagliette, huzzah). Plus, it’s pretty long. The waiter read it through patiently to me and S, and then said I could explain it when my other (late) friend A turned up. I nodded, like there was a chance in hell that would happen. I can’t remember my own name half of the time.
The third thing is, it’s so darn pretty. It’s nestled right between The Royal Oak and Fanny Nelson’s on Ezra Street, just off Columbia Road. Inside, it’s all exposed brick and wooden beams, with a wood-burning stove in one corner. There’s a little courtyard, strewn with candles in the winter and doors thrown open in the summer. Gah, it was so cute I could to eat it. If you want to get lucky, take your date here. It would totally work on me. If S wasn’t already pregnant, she might have been by the end of the night (okay sorry, too far).
Fourthly (when will this list end), I’m still pescatarian. And S is pregnant. Oh, I said that already. Do you know what being pregnant means in an authentic Italian restaurant? It means you can eat fuck all. Everything involved unpasteurised cheese. Delicious, gooey, creamy unpasteurised goodness. Or meat, cooked rare. Our combined pickiness was a minefield. A arrived and the water had to read through the menu again. Twice. Disaster. But we got there in the end. S got this little squidgy pasta (I believe that’s the technical term) called Cavatelli, with tomato ragu (no cheese). A and I both went for the Tagliatelle Verdi allo Scoglio – seafood tagliette to me and you, flavoured with spinach (the one dish I could understand).
A and I had barely tucked into our bottle of lovely (house) red, before the food arrived, steaming hot. Literally, it was ten minutes from taking our order to having it put on the table – and it was a Thursday night. But timing doesn’t matter when the food is this good. The shellfish was fresh, lip-smackingly delicious. We’re talking big juicy mussels and little delicate bites of clam, with a zingy tomato sauce. The pasta was fresh too, homemade I think, yielding, with just a little bite. The only negative – I wanted more. It looked like a big portion until you got all of the shells out of the way. I could have done with a few more spoonfuls. Oh, and an actual spoon. The pasta was slippery, and difficult to eat with a knife and fork.
S’s dish was good, too – perfectly al dente, the tomato sauce light and fresh – but requiring a dash of seasoning. Probably needed some cheese. We all ate our food pretty quickly – and then we sat there for a bit, twiddling our thumbs, wondering what to do with ourselves. The table behind us had just ordered their starters – the Antipasto Napoletano. Do you know what it included? Deep fried burrata. And deep friend dough, like a sugar-free doughnut. And bruschetta. And anchovies on toast. And mushrooms. Mmmm. I looked at the food. I looked at my friends. They nodded, knowingly. I looked at the waiter. “Do you want to order a dessert?” he said. “Sort of,” I said.
Our dessert-starter arrived not long after. It was everything I dreamt of, although I’m still not convinced by anchovies as a concept, TBH. It was enough for three greedy people to pick at, but A and I got extra burrata. My God, the burrata. And the deep fried dough! Worth the trip alone.
After the antipasto, we were finally satiated. The bill came to just under £100 with wine and service – bargain. Two little chefs with kind faces waved at us when we left, as if we were old friends. We emerged onto the cobbled streets of Columbia Road, full and tipsy, and it felt like being on holiday. There’s something magical about Campania. Eat there, and fall under its spell.
23 Ezra St
Five out of five stars (my first!)