Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38.
Campanile is dead, long live Campanile.
Chefs Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton, then husband and wife, opened their marquee trailblazer in Los Angeles's Hancock Park neighborhood in 1989. It helped set an almost preposterous number of standards for how the country now eats. Other influential restaurants at the time centered their kitchens around the grill, or bought their ingredients directly from farmers, or entwined Italian and Mediterranean dishes among Americana staples. Campanile coalesced these notions of California cuisine under one roof. Soon glories like rosemary-perfumed lamb, fish over whipped potatoes, and luxury versions of ravioli proliferated across the land, as did nostalgic enticements like Campanile's grilled cheese night.
Silverton poured her soul into the restaurant's side business-cum-juggernaut La Brea Bakery. She upgraded fruit crisps and cobblers by sluicing pears or peaches with vanilla-bean brown butter, and her tangy loaves of sourdough redefined the genre. If today the words "La Brea" are as synonymous with bread as they are with tar pits, you can thank Silverton.