The Washington Post

Campono, informal and open for 3 meals a day

Chef-restaurateur Bob Kinkead opened Campono near the Kennedy Center next to his high-end Ancora, which has been closed for a facelift. (JUANA ARIAS/For The Washington Post)

Open morning, noon and night, Campono is your ticket to a generally pleasant breakfast, lunch or dinner across from the Kennedy Center while you wait for chef Bob Kinkead’s high-end Ancora next door to get ready for its close-up in September.

Unlike Ancora, which went dark in March for a top-to-bottom makeover, Kinkead’s Campono is a self-service operation. The former focused on Italian seafood; the latter, introduced as Ancora closed, puts out breakfast dishes, pizzas, sandwiches and salads in a casual cafe setting.

The new 50-seat eatery takes its name from a village in the Marche region of Italy where some of Kinkead’s grandchildren reside and finds Jeff Gaetjen not just cooking, but also occasionally bringing meals and extra napkins to customers.

More napkins are exactly what anyone ordering the brisket submarine, cruising on house-baked bread, needs. A torpedo of tender beef, the sandwich packs in provolone cheese and a slaw that gets its bite from lime juice and jalapeño. Diners need to open wide for Campono’s winning egg salad sandwich, too. Its recipe, Kinkead says, was “stolen from Mark Furstenberg,” the Washington baker soon to roll out Bread Furst in Upper Northwest. The filling is chunky rather than creamy, and interspersed with diced green bell pepper.

Salads are packed in compact plastic bowls that make dressing them at the table difficult. Chicken with Napa cabbage and crisp noodles gets a little cup of liquid that favors soy sauce over ginger and lime. The toss reminds me of something I might order between flights at an airport. Gelato is churned in-house; pistachio is better than grapefruit blasted with Campari.

The stacks of wood that lend a rustic feel to Campono signal pizzas baked in an oak fire. The pie I tried, and liked — Rustica — scatters roasted peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and oregano on a crust with a web of mozzarella and a faint char.

The best-selling pizza isn’t on the menu, says Kinkead, “but we’ll make it if people ask”: tried-and-true pepperoni.

600 New Hampshire Ave. NW. 202-505-4000. Sandwiches, $8 to $11.50; pizzas, $9 to $15.

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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