Don’t Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls in Pisa

Just relax at the Antica Trattoria il Campano

Antica Trattoria "Il Campano", Pisa

The end of our twenty-four hour getaway to Pisa, last autumn, was the tastiest part of the trip. It was sunny, and unusually warm for November in Tuscany. I had finished my telecommuting obligations the evening before and met Silvia after she had said her goodbyes to her fellow historians. As we walked through the maze of little squares and streets around the market between Borgo Stretto and the University, on the way to our hotel, we spotted a restaurant in a small medieval townhouse, with four tables outside. We had two hours before our train to Rome left, and since an hour to enjoy lunch at an outside table was attraction enough to stop, we decided to take our chances on the food.

We soon discovered that we had nothing to worry about. Antica Trattoria il Campano had the feel of a good, small restaurant in a university town. Which makes sense, as the trattoria takes its name from its previous location, under the nearby bell tower (“campano”), that historically signaled the beginning of classes at the University.

Pappa al Pomodoro in Pisa

Our waitress, professional and friendly, took our orders and guided us through the meal, all the while making us feel like we were in charge. The menu, which varies according to seasonal availability, had a tempting mix of traditional Tuscan dishes and variations on the same. Silvia, nostalgic for the years she studied in Florence and Pisa, ordered pappa al pomodoro, a simple Tuscan dish made from stale bread, tomatoes, olive oil, basil and garlic. She used to make it for dinner parties when we were getting to know each other. I snuck a few fork full’s and was immediately flooded with intoxicating memories of those days. I, as always, couldn’t resist ordering the first thing I saw with artichokes – a fresh salad built around thinly sliced raw artichokes and pecorino cheese.

The rest of the menu was so tempting that we also ordered seconds: Silvia a hot eggplant antipasto, and I, venison raviol

Venison Ravioli at Il Campano, Pisa

i. The sauce for the ravioli was made from fresh sheep cheese from Pistoia (“Raviggiolo di pecora pistoiese”) and red currants. I still daydream about that sauce!

Il Campano is famous for two other things–– grilled meats and a huge wine list (which is what you would expect from a restaurant that fills its walls with bottles). We decided to forgo ordering a bottle of wine, but chose one of four reds sold by the glass or carafe –– a Morellino di Scansano produced by Agrucellina. It’s a full bodied wine with hints of currants and a little pepper – a house wine good enough to make me forget there was a wine list.

A word of warning: the menu changes from time to time, so don’t expect to have what we had. If you’re a little adventurous, chan

ces are you will be pleased. Portions are not huge, but big enough to only need two choices to feel full. In fact, if the portions were any larger, the food would not be as beautiful.

Artichoke salad front, eggplant antipasto back

– Joshua Lawrence

Antica Trattoria Il Campano

Via Cavalca 19, Centro, 56126

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on

Silvia and her Pappa al Pomodoro at Il Campano

Venison on Foodista

Red Currant on FoodistaRed Currant

Artichoke on FoodistaArtichoke

3 responses to “Don’t Ask for Whom the Bell Tolls in Pisa

  1. great! I just saw a post on pappa al pomodoro on Doc’s site and was terribly interested. Yum! I am on a tour of your site now.

  2. Just added Campano to my neverending list of restaurants. Have you been here Re di Puglia?

    If you’re ever in the area again, go check it out.

  3. I will definitely try it the next time through. Thanks!

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