Richard Nixon brought notoriety to the Watergate complex almost half a century ago when he sent his henchmen to break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Fortunately, the building still stands today, and we’re able to march on in to buy pizza and sandwiches.
Campono is the second restaurant owned by chef Bob Kinkead, who also owns the neighboring Ancora. Both Italian restaurants are situated in the retail spaces in the lower level of the Watergate complex.
Kinkead, a self-taught chef, opened Campono in the old space of a once-cafe, Cup’a Cup’a, choosing to create a more casual space than his upscale Ancora. The only meals served are pizza, salads, and subs. In one corner of the restaurant is a coffee shop, making the usual lattes but also serving gelato.
Not even the elegant makeup of the restaurant takes away from its down-to-earth feel. Though the lamps and upscale décor suggest an expensive dine, the joint prides itself on its everyday appeal. The table spread is much like at any other pizza house, complete with cheese, salt, and pepper, and everyone is self-seated. The restaurant even looks out for its hipster audience, with a wall of mason jars filled with fruits and vegetables available for purchase.
The menu options are fairly varied, with choices in pizza, salads, cold subs, and hot subs of all sorts. The coffee shop has hot and cold espresso drinks and desserts.
I ordered a chicken and pancetta sub. The sandwich contained arugula, avocado, and pesto, along with the meat. My sub was came on a nondescript paper plate. Luckily, it was more impressive than its presentation would suggest.
The ingredients all came together quite nicely, but it was the delicate but firmly toasted bread that really stood out. It was crunchy but not hard, thick but not overwhelming, and it didn’t take away from the taste of the rest of the food.
Of course, this being an Italian restaurant, their specialty comes in the pizza—but for your own sake, branch out from a simple pepperoni. Campono’s selection includes the well-known flavors of margherita and napoletana, along with some other red and white pizzas—even a build-your-own option. All are available for order by the slice or the pie.
Their other speciality is certainly the gelato. Even in the traditional chocolate and vanilla, it was rich and striking. The not-too-sweet gelato is topped with a mini biscotti. The plastic, colored cups create an amusing visual experience that isn’t too bougie. In fact, the cashier-cum-gelato artist sported a high neck tattoo—Ronald Reagan wouldn’t approve.
In its location by the Kennedy Center, and a short walk from the Waterfront, the locale is worth a visit. With many kinds of foods and desserts, be sure to show up hungry. It’s worth the extra buck you would have saved at Domino’s or Subway.