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Light Touch: Carmine Camporaso, the new owner of Fratello's, says he'll lighten up the sauces a bit, but he'll keep many old favorites.

Now That's Italian

The new owner of Fratello's lives his own version of the American dream

By Christina Waters

THE GRACEFUL NAME of Carmine Camporaso belongs to the new owner of Fratello's, long famed for Southern Italian cooking on San Jose's Meridian Avenue. Camporaso, a native of the Amalfi Coast, has been at the helm here for less than a month, but has already impressed regulars with his linguine and clam sauce, as well as updated lunchtime sandwiches. "My mom was a chef," explains Fratello's new owner, who started making espressos as a child. "I grew up between the tables and the customers," he says. "In Italy we have a different way of cooking in each region. In my area it's most famous for seafood, lots of fresh herbs and vegetables with pasta." That emphasis has already found its way to Fratello's.

Camporaso came to California three years ago and worked his way up in the business. It's the classic American dream saga that's been repeated for generations--and Camporaso is part of the delicious new wave of Italian culinary energy that has been hitting our shores with new vigor for the past decade. If you doubt that there's a giant Mediterranean tsunami pounding our puttanesca, check out how many Italian restaurants have suddenly popped up in a neighborhood near you.

But I digress. After paying his dues in local kitchens, Camporaso opened "a little store in Morgan Hill--just sandwiches and salads. But it was all very healthy, no mayonnaise with my focaccia bread," he chuckles. "And then I had this wonderful occasion to buy this restaurant." The chef hasn't suddenly changed the Fratello's menu--out of respect for the established customers. "But I have added some specials," Camporaso confesses. "I've made things lighter, using less cream and more olive oil. More white wine. For example, I do a lot of salmon with a light, fresh, cherry tomato sauce--I've reworked some of the regular sauces." A recent specials menu demonstrates his point. Fresh mussels are sauteed with garlic, white wine and fresh herbs as an appetizer. Halibut served with Yukon gold potatoes, cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives creates an uncluttered entree. And of course there are still those sensuous grilled chicken-breast sandwiches plus all the penne, linguine and cappellini specialties--and yes, of course, pizza. Fratello's is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and for dinner Tuesday through Saturday; it's located at 1712-F Meridian Ave., San Jose (408.269.3801).

Arena Makes Waves

Starting this week the area's many fans of Waves Smokehouse & Saloon will be able to gnaw on their favorite BBQ while watching live world-class hockey. Waves has been drafted to be the official BBQ concessionaire at the San Jose Arena, and will offer house specialties during all the Sharks games as well as other Arena events. Owner Joel Wyrick promises that his new Waves "satellite" eatery will be open "for any country & western act that comes to the tank!" Tank you very much.

Wyrick will be especially busy next Tuesday--that's March 7--when he expects to welcome thousands of folks to the annual Post Street Mardi Gras celebration, held outside the front door of his restaurant (65 Post St., in downtown San Jose). The festivities run 5:30pm to midnight and will involve the usual pre-Lent excess of food, drink and fun. For details, call Waves at 408.885.9283 or check the web at postst.com.

Email me! Readers, restaurateurs, chefs: Please send any news items, tips, menu changes, openings, special events and juicy gossip to [email protected]

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From the February 24-March 1, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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