Allen Pierleoni / apierleoni@sacbee.com

Pizza hot from the oven at Campelli's Pizza in Roseville. The place is hard to find for some, but pies are pretty good.

Counter Culture: Campelli's Pizza

Published: Friday, Jun. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 36TICKET
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 10, 2012 - 1:43 pm

My lunch pal was having trouble with her GPS and couldn't locate Campelli's Pizza in Roseville, so a look-see inside the restaurant was bound to be more interesting than waiting in the car.

For the record, the pizzeria is in Woodcreek Plaza, at the corner of Foothills Boulevard and Pleasant Grove Boulevard.

Inside, rounds of freshly made pizza dough were lined up, ready to be hand-tossed, topped and slid into the brick oven. Diners sit at tables or on stools lined up along the prep area.

Wall murals and other art are eye-catching. Framed "Mona Lisa" and "American Gothic" prints were reminders that Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch's "The Scream" had sold for $120 million in early May. It's one of four pastels in the "Scream" series, and was the most costly piece of art ever sold at auction.

It also represented a whole lot of pizza. Speaking of which, the fragrant aromas of garlic and sizzling pepperoni were becoming overwhelming. Just then, the lunch pal phoned to say she still was searching for the place, so go ahead and order.

Soon, two pizzas arrived at the table. The thin-crust version was divided in half: Tuscan pesto on one side (basil pesto, herbed chicken, mushrooms, garlic, artichoke hearts), Isabella's garlic ranch on the other (garlic ranch sauce, herbed chicken, bacon, red onion, mushrooms, garlic and fresh basil).

The "traditional" thicker-crust pie was split between Camp's combo (pepperoni, ham, salami, Italian sausage, black olives, white onion, bell pepper, mushrooms) and chicken Parmesan (herbed chicken with "tons of marinara sauce," garlic, mozzarella and Parmesan). A manufactured gluten-free crust is available.

A few shakes of hot red-pepper flakes set the stage. Sorry, lunch pal. As Woody Allen has famously said, "Half of life is showing up."

Just then, the long-lost lunch pal walked into the pizza parlor and sat down. "My, that looks good," she said, grabbing the metal spatula and lifting a slice.

Like smoked pork ribs and hamburgers, pizza is a particularly subjective dish. In this case, we thought the pizza was better than average, but not great. We liked the thin-crust version better than the thick, and agreed that the ingredients were fresh and the flavors fine. Our favorite: Tuscan pesto on crispy thin crust.

On the phone later, co-owner Jared Campbell (with wife Ashley) said he'd worked in the pizza biz for years before opening Campelli's in 2008.

"Most everything here is made from scratch," he said. "The crust and sauce are mine, but most of the recipes are Ashley's. She's the brains behind it all."

Pies range from $5.25 to $23.25; slices are $2.50.

A sister pizzeria is in Cameron Park, but the Foresthill store recently closed.

Little Prague mostly tasty

"The food at Little Prague rekindles memories of when I lived in Germany for six years," said lunch pal Don Burns, publicist for the Sacramento Public Library. "I can still taste the bratwurst and schnitzel."

He added in German, "The dishes at the restaurant are authentic." He meant the food, not the plates, though the imported patterned dishes are works of art.

Though the ivy-accented, brick-lined patio looked inviting, we settled at a table inside the busily decorated Bohemian restaurant ("Specializing in hearty European fare"; $3.75 to $9).

We started with richly flavored pork-barley soup, and a surprisingly bland goulash soup that was more of a purée, with bits of celery and carrot.

Lunch got better when the beef goulash arrived. Tender pieces of meat were covered in dark, silken gravy. On the plate too was a "Czech dumpling," resembling in texture and flavor a large disc-shaped piece of white bread. Apparently, it had been sliced off a large, round, house-made dumpling.

Paprika ranges from mild to fiery, and we hoped for some heat in the chicken paprikash. Instead, we found an uninspired mild sauce with a half-and-half base. The chunks of chicken breast looked great but had lost a lot of their moisture. A better lunch choice, we guessed, likely would have been sausage-stuffed pork roast with sauerkraut.

The "traditional European sausage plate" offers choices of four wurst hand-made by sausagemeister Dirk Mueller, owner of the estimable Morant's Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen (5001 Franklin Blvd., Sacramento; 916-731-4377). The sausages had been grilled, crisping their skins to contrast with the delicious spiced ground pork, beef and veal inside. The soul-mate potato salad was cold and crisp, the ideal partner.

Also making the trip worthwhile were the incredible house-made pastries and cakes in the cold case. We split a "tall Napoleon," a luscious concoction of puff pastry, chocolate mousselike filling and real whipped cream. We found ourselves at a loss for words – English or German – as we staged a demolition derby with our forks.

Little Prague is at 330 G St., Davis, (530) 756-1107; www.littleprague.com.

Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

CAMPELLI'S PIZZA

Where: 7480 Foothills Blvd., Roseville; a sister store is at 3958 Cambridge Road in Cameron Park; (530) 676-1616

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays

Food: two 1/2 stars

Ambience: two stars

How much: $-$$

Information: (916) 784-8440, www.campellispizza.com

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