Corrections or additions?

This review by Barbara Fox was prepared for the January 25, 2006

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Let’s Try . . . Camillo’s Cafe

Walking through the Princeton Shopping Center, we passed Princeton Public Library’s former temporary home and the Cafe that still operates there. We liked their pea soup, so we checked the menu for the soup of the day – and saw an entirely different restaurant, this one with lobster on the menu. Lobster? Here?

Turns out that this eatery continues to serve its comfort food menu by day but, come 4 p.m., it is transformed to Camillo’s Cafe. Lured inside, we soon met Camillo Tortola: You may have known him from his previous job as sommelier at Mediterra. A tall, barrel-chested Napolitano, he went to chef’s school in Italy and had two restaurants in Scotland before emigrating to the United States. Camillo took over on January 1 and kept the look of the place – glass topped tables, cloth napkins, a photography exhibit on the walls – pretty much the same. But he replaced carnations on the table with tall bottles of olive oil and stationed lavish sprays of flowers at strategic spots.

We didn’t order the lobster, listed at $25, but my husband, the mollusk lover, tried his favorite, zuppe de pesce, also $25, and pronounced it the best he has ever had. That’s because the clams and mussels, salmon, and shrimp floated in a delicate red sauce with more heft than the usual fish broth. We also liked the fettucine with wild mushrooms at $15. The other pasta entries, all in that price range and all accompanied by a side salad and hot bread, include meat or vegetable lasagne, spinach and ricotta manicotta, and pappardelle with Italian sausage ragu and truffle oil.

We could have had an appetizer like Antipasto Miso ($7.95) or a larger salads (mixed field greens with prosciutto, walnuts, and cranberries) at $9. Other entrees include three choices for chicken (Marsala, Piccatta, or Parmigana) at $17, filet mignon with Gorgonzola ($19), veal Milanese ($18), or tilapia mare chiara ($16), all served with potato and vegetable.

Camillo, we predict, will soon be known for his desserts, all $5.95. His homemade tiramisu is a mini-loaf plenty big enough for two, dressed with white frosting and drips of chocolate. He also has Zabaglione con frutta, Italian riccotta cheesecake, various chocolate concoctions, and, for Bent Spoon fans, two scoops of Bent Spoon gelato with a chocolate chip cookie.

With your sommelier’s expertise, we asked, can we ask you for a wine suggestion next time? Claridge’s Wine & Liquor is just a few steps away. Vigorous nod yes, "but give me some time, call that afternoon." Apparently ex-sommeliers don’t like to make casual choices.

Camillo’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday but Sunday, and it is more hospitable to late diners than many spots in Princeton. It is open until 10 p.m. on weeknights, to 11 p.m. on weekends.

– Barbara Fox

Camillo’s Cafe, Princeton Shopping Center. 609-252-0608. Camillo Tortola, owner-chef. Credit cards accepted. BYOB.


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