Camillo’s Popular Italian Restaurant Reopens at Avanti Location in Pennington
DINING ITALIANO: “We’re keeping the Camillo’s tradition with the same authentic Italian cuisine. At the same time, we are continuing to offer many of the Avanti specialties.” Camillo Tortola, chef/owner of the new Camillo’s Avanti in Pennington, is happy to offer his signature Italian cuisine to both former and new customers.
Good news! Camillo is back. After a hiatus of two years during which time he had closed Camillo’s Cafe in the Princeton Shopping Center, Camillo Tortola has opened Camillo’s Avanti.
He recently purchased Avanti Restaurant at 23 West Delaware Street in Pennington, and is now ready to offer customers his traditional classic Italian cuisine in Camillo’s signature relaxing and enjoyable atmosphere.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” says Chef Tortola, quoting Virginia Woolf.
As a chef, he has been devoted to creating delicious authentic Italian dishes. It is what he has been doing his adult life, and what fascinated him when he was a boy. Born in Italy, and brought up by his grandmother in the small village of Miranda, Camillo was intrigued by his grandmother’s cooking.
“My grandmother was very poor after World War II. She had a simplicity and purity in the food that she prepared that shaped my palate. She’d put a chicken in a pot, with all fresh vegetables, and the flavor was wonderful. I fell in love with her cooking style, from Naples” he recalls. “I remember tasting the freshest, purest ingredients, combined with the just the right colorful presentation. And the taste and aroma were very appealing. She fed me very well! I’d watch her, and that’s when I decided to become a chef.”
Camillo trained for two years at the Roccaraso Cooking School in Italy, and worked in a variety of Italian restaurants as a chef before moving to Scotland, where he worked with the well-known Italian chef Enzo Ripa. He later owned two restaurants there, including one in Edinburgh.
After coming to Princeton 12 years ago, Mr. Tortola worked in this area as an independent chef before deciding to open his own restaurant. Camillo’s Cafe in the Princeton Shopping Center was noted for authentic Italian cuisine, focusing on special recipes and the freshest ingredients. Now, he intends to offer the same focus on healthy eating with his special flavor and flair at Camillo’s Avanti.
“The simplicity of Italian food is what makes it so popular,” he explains. “Simplicity is what drives my food and my cooking. A Mediterranean diet is the best in the world. Olive oil and tomato sauce are so good for you!”
Everything at the restaurant is prepared to order, he adds, and everything is fresh. “We get fish, meat, produce, and dairy from the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. I go there myself two and three times a week, and I always check the freshness. There is no middle man involved.
“We also have homemade pasta, which we make right here, and I get prosciutto, salami, and cheese directly from Italy.”
Lunch and dinner are served at the restaurant, and customers are finding many of Camillo’s signature dishes as well as a number of new choices on the menu. “I always have my Pappardelle con Italian sausage Ragu, with fresh shaved pecorino cheese and truffle oil; also, the fish we get is wild, not farmed, including our Linguine Salmone, with homemade linguini tossed in a blush cream sauce with line-caught Atlantic salmon and wild mushrooms.
A recent menu included a variety of appetizers, such as Charcuterie for Two, with mixed Italian meats, cheeses, and pickled vegetables, served with bruschetta; also Lump Crabmeat crabcakes, served with a sage lemon butter; and Shrimp Pepperoncino, jumbo shrimp sauteed with homemade marinara and spicy pepperoncino peppers finished with white wine and basil.
Pasta dishes include homemade ravioli of the day, as well as Linguine Primavera Arrabiata, with mixed seasonal vegetables tossed in a spicy marinara, among other choices.
Other popular dishes are chicken, veal, or shrimp in traditional sauces, including marsala, franchaise, and parmesan served over cappelini; Lamb Chops Salmorillo —domestic lamb chops in a classic southern Italian sauce made with lemon, garlic, oregano, and fresh parsley; Chicken Sinatra, breaded and topped with ricotta cheese, spinach, and mozzarella, served in a blush creamy sauce over penne; and Prime Filet Mignon Royale Tre Fungi — 10-ounce filet served with sauteed porcini, shitake, and oyster mushrooms, finished with a brandy house veal demi glace.
Camillo’s customers rarely skip dessert, and as Chef Camillo points out, “My ricotta and chocolate cheesecake is a real favorite, and my tiramisu is a 100-year-old recipe handed down from my grandmother. Panecotta with berries and honey is another favorite, as is pear with mascarpone cheese and marsala and sugar reduction.”
Customers may bring wine or spirits of their choice, and Mr. Tortola is happy to make suggestions about appropriate wines to accompany particular dishes. Coffee, cappuccino, and espresso are all available, as are a variety of soft drinks and juices.
The restaurant can seat 80 diners, and the two dining rooms are available for private parties.
Chef Camillo and restaurant manager Steven Grasso remodeled the space, giving it a handsome new look. Family photos from Italy, including those of Camillo’s grandparents, are featured on the wall, and the fresh linens and attractive table settings invite customers to linger over a leisurely meal.
“I love the way the restaurant looks,” says Camillo, with a smile. “I think it is like a chalet, with dark wood exposed beams along with the white ceiling.”
What matters most to Camillo is that his customers enjoy a congenial dining experience, and this is what he strives to achieve. “You know,” he explains, “an Italian chef is like an artist. Italian food is so popular because of the culture of the country — the music, the way of life, the atmosphere. That is what I want to bring to my customers here — I want to bring the romance of Italy to you!”
Friendly service, delicious food, a bottle of wine — what better way to relax than to join the party at Camillo’s Avanti!
Camillo adds that customers interested in private parties for the holidays, including New Year’s Eve, should call as soon as possible to reserve space.
Regular hours are lunch, Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner, Monday through Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Reservations are recommended. (609) 737-7174.