If you’ve ever lived in the DC area, you’ve probably heard of chef Bob Kinkead. In fact you’ve probably dined at least once at Kinkead’s, his sublime seafood restaurant, which was a DC institution for 20 years.
Kinkead is moving in a new direction now with a two-part ode to Italy at the Watergate Complex directly across from Kennedy Center. His new trattoria, Campono, which opened in April, is the casual sister to Ancora, a fine dining destination with an emphasis on seafood that will open next door in September after a top-to-bottom makeover of the restaurant space.
Campono specializes in red and white pizzas, panini, and gelato, all made in-house. The restaurant opens early, serving breakfast pizzas and sandwiches, house-made pastries, and a great selection of coffee and espresso drinks.
We sat down with the chef to talk about his inspiration for the new restaurant and to see what else is on his mind (and in his kitchen).
Kinkead said his interest in Italian cuisine grew into a passion after his daughter moved to Italy, married, and started a family there. He visits frequently and brings the spirit and flavors of Italy back to DC.
The Daily Meal: What’s your favorite local ingredient?
Chef Bob Kinkead: Local crab, blue crab, though we’re not using it at Campono now. Here, it’s clams for pizza and shrimp for salad . . . and flour in huge piles.
What other DC restaurants would you recommend and why?
Prime Rib, Vidalia, Marcel’s, Willow in Arlington [VA], and Citronelle – I love Citronelle. My motivation for going to restaurants is different than a lot of other people. I usually go to see friends. I might go to a restaurant once just to see what they’re doing.
What’s your best cooking tip?
I’m a big user of vinegar. It balances a lot of things, used judiciously. Also, you can’t just follow a recipe. You have to taste, taste, taste, taste all through the process.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Lamprey, ugh. Actually, lamprey, duck testicles, and pig’s ears, all in the same meal. It was part of a birthday dinner that my friend [the late] Jean Louis Palladin made for me.
Any suggestions for wine lovers?
Arneis, a varietal white wine from Piedmonte and Rosso Conero, a red from the Marche region. They’re just good, inexpensive sippable wines.