Earlier this year I agonized over the beginning of my busy season at work, and all of the comfort foods I needed to see it through. Well, I’m happy to report that this weekend was the much needed conclusion to several very hectic months. After I got caught up on some sleep and relaxation, I knew that I needed to treat myself to a nice dinner out – something a little bit indulgent and decadent. And maybe something a little further out from my home base now that I had some time to invest.
I decided it was a good occasion to try out Campagna in Malta, a place that has been on my queue for a while but always seems to lose out to the great Italian options that are more centrally located in Albany. Yes, the restaurant is housed in a rather uninspiring location just off a roundabout in Malta, but the food is allegedly top notch.
We started off with a strong appetizer of polpo puttanesca – octopus in a garlic and olive pomodoro sauce. In addition to being incredibly beautiful to look at, the bright colors of this dish gave way to equally vibrant flavors.
Round slices of tender octopus were stacked in a tantalizing mound with sharply brined olives, full bodied garlic flavors, and a drizzling of olive oil and pesto. I wanted to soak up every last drop of this sauce.
In the spirit of throwing dietary caution to the wind, both myself and my dinner date ordered pasta dishes with a cream sauce. The proprietor had informed us that all of the pasta was made fresh in-house, and I didn’t need much more of an invitation. We tried an order of lobster ravioli and a dish of rigatoni with sausage, caramelized mushrooms, and swiss chard. Both were absolute buttery, creamy, heaven.
The pasta in both dishes had a great hint of al dente bite, and the sauces were luxurious and rich and absolutely swoon-worthy. The plates were perhaps a little over-sauced, but everything was so well seasoned and lovely that I barely noticed until I was most of the way through the meal. And at that point there wasn’t much to do about it but sop up more of the deliciousness with the house bread, which had a flawless crusty exterior and soft, spongy interior crumb.
We somehow managed to pull together enough room for a shared dessert, and ordered this divine square of mocha tiramisu. It was one of the heavier versions that I’ve had in the area, but not in a bad way. There was a good amount of heft to the creamy layers, along with a substantial crumbled mocha topping and a smear of chocolate sauce on the plate for some extra sweetness.
Final Rating: 9/10. Campagna is one of those places with a menu that just pulls me in so many directions, and I wish I could have sampled a more diverse set of dishes. We set out to have a decadent feast and that’s certainly what we accomplished, but of course there are lighter dishes on the menu as well. I highly recommend the pasta options, but I can’t speak to the rest of the menu, which looked equally creative and well executed on neighboring tables. Prices are slightly upscale, but the atmosphere was friendly and unpretentious.
My ultimate question was whether Campagna would be enough to lure me away from my standard Italian stops that are closer to home. The answer seems like a resounding yes – this place really has something special that is worth returning to.