First Look: Rob Bragagnolo’s Campo Food Hall opens at King and Spadina


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Yvonne Tsui

Toronto has suddenly joined the global food hall trend and Rob Bragagnolo (Carver) is one of the leaders of this revolution with Campo, recently opened at King and Spadina. 

While he grew up in Toronto, Bragagnolo spent most of his culinary career overseas, particularly in Majorca, Spain. From 2004 to 2011, he was involved in three different restaurants on the Spanish island — from a cooking school to a gastronomic restaurant to a Spanish-style brasserie. Before returning to Toronto, he staged in Barcelona at Albert Adrià’s tapas bar, Tickets.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

The word campo is Spanish for fields and using it as the name of a food hall is an allusion to ingredients which grow from fields and are brought to the market.  While markets in North America are somewhat of an urban-only thing, visiting them is a way of life in Spain. “The market in Spain is a place where you bump into chefs and restaurateurs grabbing coffee before work,” or getting ingredients for the day’s menu Bragagnolo explains. 

“They don’t just serve one type of food,” he adds the markets there are casual and inviting, a place where one can wander without feeling strange. “I wanted to make a King Street accessible joint.”

Campo is a multi-experience kind of place, where you can swing by for a bomba, grab a salad or a sandwich, a juice from ELIXR, shop from a selection of curated artisan goods like cheese from the Cheese Boutique and various charcuterie, grab a glass of wine or vermouth at the bar and by night there is a full-service restaurant called Labora.

The space, designed by Commute Design, seats 70 with a seafood counter and open kitchen towards the back. “I wanted it to feel Old World, but new and designed,” Bragagnolo says of the space.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

The cocktail list features libations such as the Gran Via G&T, topped with Gordal olives, caperberry and sprig of rosemary in a fish-bowl like glass. Barcelona is said to be crawling with bars dishing out their own versions of the classic British summer drink.  There’s also the Sangre, a sort of Negroni with blood orange, grapefruit twist and Thai basil flower.  The Labora Cola comes with a syphon as a throwback to “old man bars” where the devices would allow one to add sparkling soda to vermouth.

The Labora menu features an extensive list of tapas, crudo, vegetables, seafood and meat dishes as well as dessert.  The Pan de Cristal, or crystal bread is a unique bread that Bragagnolo developed with long-time friend Ted Corrado (The Drake), and is so-named because of its glossy sheen which resembles glass, and alludes to its fragile nature – it shatters quite easily. It is essentially all the best parts of bread, seeing as it’s mostly crust with very little filling and is specifically designed to be eaten with ham and cheese.


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

For those in the mood for a sandwich, there's the Bocata de Calamar, a sort of Spanish po’boy sandwich topped with mini fried calamari, aioli and pickled pepper. 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

Campo has an array of langoustines that one doesn’t usually see on this side of the Atlantic. For instance, the Carabineros, a deep-sea prawn of intense red that is butterflied and cooked on only one side so the meat stays tender with a small sprinkling of olive oil and salt.  “It’s not easy to do simple, straight-forward food,” says Bragagnolo, “you can’t hide behind it.” 

The Rubia Gallega is a source of pride for Bragagnolo, an Ontario ribeye that is cured with spices like cardamom, coriander and orange zest for seven weeks and then air cured for a further seven before being cut and served like Jamon Iberico.

While depresseing mall food courts are out – food halls are here to stay and Campo is like taking a trip to Spain without ever leaving Toronto.

Campo Food Hall, 433 King St. W., 416-260-9993


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 


(IMAGE: YVONNE TSUI)

 

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Yvonne lives to eat. She’s known to her friends as the “Ask Alexa” for the best restaurants in cities all over North America. When she's not doing on-the-ground, scrappy PR for TouchBistro, she's a freelance food and drink writer and tells the origin stories, struggles, and successes of restaurateurs – veteran and new.

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