Authentic Neapolitan Pizza is widely regarded as the first, and to many the best, form of pizza. Alas, Reno has been without an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria, that is until Campo opened its doors a couple months ago. Campo is not a pizzeria per se, it is actually an upscale rustic Italian-themed restaurant, however the focal point of its menu is, thankfully, Neapolitan Pizza. Campo was opened by Chef Mark Estes who has an excellent reputation in the Reno/Tahoe area and who has also achieved some national publicity and prominence through appearances on numerous TV cooking shows.
Under Estes guidance, Campo has made a determined effort to make its Pizzas as authentic to the Neapolitan ideal as possible. To that end they went so far as to import a Cirigliano Forni wood-burning brick pizza oven from Italy and send staff to Italy to be trained in the strict pizza-making traditions of the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN). If you are looking for VPN pizza in Reno, as it stands, this is your only option.
In keeping with VPN standards, Campo’s pizzas are about 12″ in diameter and have a very thin crust. Like most VPN pizza’s, Campo’s come with a relatively sparse amount of sauce and cheese. The end crust is about 3/4 of an inch high and is designed be airy and chewy. Because these pizza’s are thin and light and only a foot wide, a single person can polish off an entire pie if they are hungry.
As it stands Campo typically has five pizzas on the menu and usually has a “pizza of the day” as well. I’ve had two of the pizzas, the VPN Margaita and the Campo, multiple times. The VPN Margarita is Campo’s version of what is basically the benchmark Neapolitan pizza: tomato sauce, “house mozzaralla”, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. The mozzarella does not appear to be true “mozzarella di bufala”, the kind made from Buffalo’s milk that is often found on pizza’s in Italy, but it is good none the less.
Campo’s signature pizza, aptly titled the “Campo”, comes with house-made sausage, salami and pancetta. When tasting the meats on this pizza, I was immediately stuck by how tasty, distinctive and vibrant they are compared to the meats you find on most pizzas. If you like meat on your pizza, you owe it to yourself to get this pizza and taste the difference that fresh, house-made meats can make on a pizza.
How does Campo’s Neapolitan pizza compare to other top-tier Neapolitan pizzas in the US, such as Tony’s Napoletana in San Francisco? In my opinion, it’s very good but not yet as good as the top tier Neapolitan pizzerias. Campo’s pies have excellent bubble structure and good charring but are, on average, a bit dry and crisp compared to the moist, soft and chewy, Neapolitan ideal. I’ve had one pie at Campo that came very close to this ideal, but to get into the top tier Campo is going to have to consistently deliver a moist and soft end crust on its pies.
The good news is that most of this is probably due to Campo’s pizzaiolo’s being inexperienced and it should hopefully be corrected over time. All that said, the pizza’s are still very good and are the best example of a true Neapolitan Pizza available in Reno.
In addition to Pizzas, Campo also has an excellent selection of foodie-quality rustic-Italian themed entrees and pasta dishes. Since this is a pizza blog, I won’t comment on these other dishes except to say that the quality of them is very high and they will likely satisfy even the most discerning foodie in your group.
This leads me to what I regard as one of the best features of Campo: If you are like me, you would prefer to eat a great pizza instead of suffering through a high-end foodie meal. Unfortunately there are certain occasions (date nights, anniversaries, important business meetings, etc.) when inviting everyone to your favorite hole-in-the-wall pizzeria may not exactly be appropriate. The beauty of Campo is that it allows you to fool your date/wife/friends/business associates into thinking you are taking them to a fine dining experience when in fact you are secretly just taking them to a pizzeria. Sure, they will order the “braised pork shank” or “roasted whole fish” or whatever it is that foodies eat, but you will still get to chow down on a pizza and since the pizza is made by a high-end chef at a high-end restaurant no one will look askance at you as you wolf down you pie.
As to the restaurant itself, it is located in downtown Reno right on the Truckee river. It’s across the street from the big movie theater complex, making it a very good “dinner and movie” date-night destination. While Campo is a high-end full service sit down restaurant, it has a “hip casual” vibe to it, so it’s quite lively and not stuffy at all. There’s also a big patio overlooking the river that will probably be great for eating your pies “al fresco” once summer rolls around. Parking is available either on the street or at the parking garages nearby.
From a value perspective, the pizza’s at Campo are very reasonably priced for a high-end restaurant with a regionally acclaimed chef at the helm. The Margarita clocks in at $13 while the Campo is only $2 more @ $15 despite having some high quality meats on it. Granted, for $13 you are getting a pizza that one hungry person could probably polish off, but when you consider the investment that has gone into the VPN certification as well as the high-end nature of the overall menu, decor and staff, it’s a relative bargain. For example, I recently had a similarly sized Neapolitan pizza in a high-end Italian place in LA for $23 and it wasn’t nearly as good as Campo’s pie.
With a great space, highly regarded chef, and a true commitment to authentic VPN Neapolitan pizza making, Campo is an excellent and welcome addition to the Reno Pizza scene. If you are in Reno and want a very good and authentic Neapolitan pie, this is your best bet by far.
Address: 50 N. Sierra St. Reno, NV 89501
Phone #: 775-737-9555
Pizza Type: Neapolitan, Thin Crust
Large Pizza Cost: $13.00