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Viva Vicino

Mio Vicino
Christopher Gardner

Into the Frying Pan: Mio Vicino, a well-loved eatery in Santa Clara, finds a new neighborhood for its rustic Italian cuisine on Campbell Avenue.

Mio Vicino takes its vivacious Italian trattoria approach to a new location in Campbell, with molto bene results

By Christina Waters

ARMED WITH that same intimate sense of extended-family camaraderie and larger-than-life flavors that have delighted its Santa Clara neighborhood, Mio Vicino opened its newest location in the heart of Campbell last month. And a whole new family of regulars has instantly appeared to fill its alfresco patio and front dining room.

Co-owners Jerry Boone and Diane Rose (former chef at Los Gatos Bar and Grill) ambitiously renovated the former Rainbow Restaurant from top to bottom, keeping only the west wall of natural brick that is now wittily echoed by a faux terrace overlooking a blue Mediterranean, thanks to a mural-in-progress stretching the length of the new trattoria. As serious as Mio Vicino is about its bold flavors and sensuous Italian cuisine, the ambiance here is unmistakably playful. From the checkered table cloths to the lively wine bar, this place makes a lusty statement about food and wine as keys to the good life. In short, it oozes Italian passion, along with plenty of garlic, sage, prosciutto and mozzarella--Mediterranean aromatherapy of the most delicious kind.

The ace vintners of Bonny Doon Vineyard are responsible for the house-label wines, dubbed "Mio Vino," of which we ordered the red variety ($13). My Mio Vicino partner Rebecca and I both agreed that this velvety, hugely friendly blend of grenache, syrah and charbonno grapes was one heck of a wine for the money, and we loved the trattoria-style tumblers into which it was poured.

Feeling a bit like we were inside a Dean Martin record, and that the moon was about to hit our eye like a big pizza pie, we toasted our neighbors on both sides and helped ourselves to fragrant francese bread dipped into a saucer of oil, balsamic vinegar and fat garlic cloves. If it wasn't amore, it was the next best thing.

Thanks to polished concrete floors and the fact that within a half-hour of opening the place was literally packed, the noise level achieved true trattoria proportions as we placed our order. A half-tumbler of mio vino later, a "small" order of Caesar salad arrived ($3.75) along with the grilled eggplant appetizer ($5.50). The Caesar was big and beautiful, from the sweetly crisp romaine to the rich anchovy in the garlic-intensive dressing. Nothing shy about it. The impact of our other appetizer was weakened slightly by undercooked eggplant. But we loved the nest of baby spinach and radicchio, the plush ricotta center, and the gorgeous basil vinaigrette bathing the whole colorful creation. A few pine nuts for textural contrast might have been a nice idea, we mused.

But we didn't contemplate this for long, because our sumptuous, oversize bowls of pasta had arrived.

Rebecca had succumbed to the "Diane Rose Award-winning Artichoke-Sage Tortellis" ($10.75), and you have to admit that's quite a come-on. Tortellis the size of saucers, all plump with artichoke-purée interior, were drenched in a cream sauce perfumed with sage and sun-dried tomatoes. These were generous, operatic flavors delivered on the culinary equivalent of panné velvet. And rich. Very rich. Rebecca did not want to share. (Of course, she did, eventually.)

My capellini gamberoni ($10.75) was a one-plate endorsement of the whole concept of pasta. Al dente angel hair pasta had been tossed with pesto, and then everything was laced with garlic, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes--not too many, just enough--and twists of butterflied prawns. Add a sip of red wine, and all the food groups necessary to sustain the good life were in place and on the table.

We ended this marvelous meal--much of which came home for lunch the next day--with chocolate biscotti ($3.95), served with dollops of freshly whipped cream, a sprig of mint, blackberries, and cups of the sort of espresso the Holy Father might crave at the end of a long day blessing the faithful. And we gave thanks for one more Mio Vicino in our neck of the dining woods. The Campbell neighbors have already adopted this place as their new, cozy hangout. We can see why. Mio Vicino is definitely a mood-elevating experience.

Mio Vicino

Address: 384 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell
Phone: 408/378-0335
Cuisine: Contemporary Italian
Ambiance: Playful, friendly
Entrees: Average $10
Hours: Mon.­Thu. 11am­10pm; Fri. 11am­11pm; Sat. 5­11pm; Sun. 5­9:30pm

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From the November 21-27, 1996 issue of Metro

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