Well-known chef and restaurant owner Mark Estee is bringing his "Whole Hog" culinary philosophy and an innovative menu featuring hand-made pizza, pasta and pig dishes to one of downtown Reno's riverfront towers. You might have read my previous posts Campo finalizing the lease and submitting an application for an alcohol license.

Estee has crafted Campo from the ground up with an eye for immaculate fresh food and the gathering-place feel of a neighborhood restaurant. Everything from the recycled table tops, the cement floor, and the open kitchen that brings together diners and chefs in an open-air riverfront setting has been planned to make Campo a destination for diners who want delicious food in an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant.

Campo's menu will be anchored by the tenants of Estee's widely praised culinary beliefs that focus on building simple, pure, fresh dishes from the best local ingredients sourced from small produce and meat purveyors. Estee championed the "local, seasonal, simple, fresh" restaurant ethic long before it became a household phrase among foodies. Working in the inhospitable farming climate of Truckee, Estee tirelessly sought out local produce, fish and meat for the menu at Moody's Bistro and Lounge from family farmers in the Sierra Valley and across Northern California.

But Campo also represents a new direction for Estee, the materialization of an inspiration to build a menu inspired by rural Italian climates where fresh oils, hand-pressed pasta, catch-of-the-day seafood, and earthy pizzas highlight the connections between the dinner table and the land.

"The idea for Campo came to me during an extended trip through the rural villages of Italy," said Estee. "I had already embraced a 'Whole Hog' cooking ethic, where every portion of an animal is used to create mouth-watering, authentic flavors. But what I saw happening in the Mediterranean villages I visited was the next evolution of that vision - a closer connection between land and food, an ethic that emphasizes respect, creativity and flavor in the use of ingredients, and food that achieves freshness and originality by shifting with each season."

The result is a menu that is rich in flavors, highlights the unexpected, and takes the predictability out of the dining experience. At Campo, the fresh flavors of the season will be the star.

"We tirelessly go after the best local, seasonal products and then let them shine," said Estee. "The 'Whole Hog' philosophy is about more than just the pig. It runs much deeper, and involves all our products from organic vegetables to fish, meat and doughs. We celebrate all these items from start to finish - recycling, composting and using every bit of everything, like our grandmothers did."

The restaurant will also introduce menu items that the region has never seen before - an in-house salami program, the hand-built dough and intensely fresh Mozzarella of an authentic Neapolitan pizza, and fresh hearty pasta fashioned on Campo's extruder.

"Campo will re-introduce diners to the simple flavors and freshness of pasta, pizza and salami the way it should be enjoyed - hand-crafted and straight off of the pasta press, wood-fired oven or drying rack.

Campo's location in the heart of Reno puts it in the center of the downtown lifestyle center - steps away from the river, a public park, the Truckee River kayak park, a busy cinema and a live theater, and scores of new residents within walking distance eagerly awaiting the opening of Campo.

Estee, who has opened successful restaurants in downtown Truckee and the Village at Northstar, says the combination of the growing food consciousness in Northern Nevada and the prime location at the Palladio, has excited him about the possibilities surrounding Campo.

"There is a strong food movement in Northern Nevada," said Estee. "People know good food, care about good food, and care about where their food comes from."

Mark Estee is no stranger to foodies. He has been featured on the Food Network, and has been the private chef of celebrities from Sir Paul McCartney to Britney Spears. National publications have praised his dishes with compliments like "close-our-eyes-and-moan good." Estee has also made multiple guest chef appearances at the 4-Diamond Awahnee Hotel, the famed James Beard House in New York City and the world-renowned Pebble Beach Food and Wine Expo.

I eagerly look forward to the opening of Campo and partaking in some true Italian cuisine.

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