339 Broadway, Bethpage
AMBIENCE: An American bistro with Asian, Latin and Italian sprinkled in, served in a rustic, farmhouse-style setting with indoor and outdoor seating.
ESSENTIALS: Open for lunch and dinner; noon to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, noon. to 2 a.m. Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Major credit cards and reservations accepted, takeout orders, wheelchair accessible.
Sometimes, and especially on summer weekends, all you really want is a great burger served outside, under umbrellas and strings of glowing patio lights. At any new restaurant, the hamburger is my scientific control, like the regular slice at a pizzeria. I order it to see how the cook handles the basics before taking the relationship to the next level.
The grass-fed burger at Campagne House in Bethpage is a tender, flavorful patty, ready to fall apart were it not supported by a buttery, brioche bun and a matrix of yellow cheddar and bacon. Order it with the $1.50 fried egg; it’s an immediate return on the investment. In this one dish, the kitchen proves its mastery of a summer staple, leaving me intrigued to dig a little deeper — and that was before I overheard a server recounting the history behind the name.
The story of Campagne House dates to the 1930s, when Charlie Campagne, born in Southern Italy, owned a Purina livestock feed store in Bethpage. He did well for himself and was heavily involved in the community. After he served on the board of education, a local elementary school was named in his honor (Charles Campagne Elementary School on Plainview Road). Since then, three generations of his family passed through those halls. That includes Campagne’s grandson, restaurateur Don Schiavetta, who returned home after spending almost 10 years opening restaurants around the country with Michelin-starred, California-based chef Michael Mina.
Back in February, Schiavetta bought the Who-Ville Bar & Grill on Broadway, transforming it into a rustic, farmhouse-style restaurant that paid homage to his grandfather’s store and Bethpage’s agrarian past. The décor has plenty of legitimate age on it. Salvaged boards from a dismantled Ohio barn sheathe the walls, the rusty pendants above the bar are chicken feeders wired with lights by a Florida craftsman, reclaimed Midwestern bricks line the ceiling and the courtyard patio is covered in weathered decking.
The large menu is eclectic, drawing inspiration from all over the globe, including the Central American heritage of chef Miguel Berrios (formerly of The Grill Room in Hauppauge) and recipes from Schiavetta’s own Italian-American family.
With the exception of that burger, favorite plates at Campagne House were the small ones. Most of the “Bar & Share” selections have received a decidedly indulgent upgrade — truffle fries, Parmesan-crusted calamari, dry-rubbed wings with sambal, an Indonesian hot sauce. Three plum-sized meatball sliders arrive dressed in a bracing marinara sauce that, thankfully, has more acidity than sugary sweetness, and topped with a creamy dollop of ricotta. In one bite you have it all: warm, simmered meatball, biting tomato sauce and cool, rich cheese. Equally good are the chicken satays that are paired with a pepper-aioli dipping sauce. Barely thicker than a pinkie finger, these skewered slivers somehow managed to pick up a noticeable amount of char from the grill.
Also for sharing are cheese-and-charcuterie boards, “pots” full of mussels, clams or “Sunday long sauce,” and pizzettes both classic and sashimi topped.
Lunch focuses on salads and sandwiches, among them that terrific burger and a take on the Vietnamese banh mi: A crusty roll filled with torn roasted pork covered in a sweet glaze that plays foil to the spiciness of the jalapeños. Cucumber rounds and shredded carrot provide a pleasing crunch, but the promised cilantro was missing. The crabcake sandwich, resplendent with Old Bay seasoning but short on chunks of crab, had a texture closer to a tuna fish croquette.
Dinner mains tend toward the complex: maple roast duck with brandy-blueberry-pecan sauce and sweet potato-green apple hash; filet mignon with a Gorgonzola-crabmeat crust, Maryland crabmeat and a pinot noir demi glaze. Chicken Campagne, a massive breast buried under roasted red peppers, mozzarella, prosciutto and basil oil, still managed to be bland. A half dozen pastas round out the dinner menu
Close the meal with Berrios’ fine desserts, which he also makes in house. His smooth and dense flourless chocolate cake, accompanied by gelato, is just big enough to lasts a few bites, the precise size required to properly finish dinner.
Locals familiar with the family name will be drawn to Campagne House, but with food like this the restaurant might just start making Bethpage more of a destination for those who did not graduate from Charles Campagne Elementary.