In honor of the singer Prince, this week I decided to party like it was 1999 at his hometown Minneapolis restaurant Campiello, which opened in Naples around 1999.
I visited Naples for the first time in 1999 and moved here permanently the following year when Campiello was the hippest, hottest restaurant in town. Lines of customers would snake through the patio and onto the street for a table, and diners would be dressed up like New Years Eve, especially on the weekends. Richard was the general manager back then and he will always remain for me, the best restaurant manager that I’ve ever known. He made everyone feel special, was never visibly frazzled even when crowds were building for a table and people and wouldn’t want to leave.
Campiello was a game-changer for restaurants in Naples. It was the first to make outdoor seating as much of a priority as indoor seating, not just an add-on but as the most desirable part of the dining experience. It embraced our beautiful weather here in Southwest Florida, and didn’t hide from it like other restaurants did. Campiello’s innovative design featured the first indoor-outdoor bar where exterior walls of the restaurant disappeared and the entire space was open, including the kitchen.
And while there are a lot more bars in Naples now, the one at Campiello will always be the best place to hang out, meet new people, have a snack and watch a game on TV. Oh and have a drink too of course.
So just like I would have in 1999, I ordered the classic Campiello dishes that were popular back at the turn of the millennium. I don’t think Campiello’s was the first deep-fried calamari appetizer I ever ate but it has always stood out as the best. Good thing there’s no shortage of squid in the oceans because Campiello must go through a ton each year serving this all-time favorite app. The batter has slight heat to it but the fresh lemony dip that accompanies it can cut any heat. The house salad is a robust mix of greens and lots of add-ons like tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, radishes and cheese that combine into a flavorful unforgettable mix. And while I’ve had many favorite dishes at Campiello over the years, I always return to the Balsamic-glazed Shortribs served with a smoky tomato–sauced spaghetti. The meat is fall off the bone tender and the sauce will spoil you for any other short ribs ever again. If you walk by the restaurant early in the day you can smell the smoker working its magic, drawing you in.
Considering that Campiello is such a popular restaurant throughout Minneapolis, I assume Prince was probably a patron at some point. Maybe this was his favorite meal too. Goodnight sweet Prince.