Maureen Kalmanson and the Midtown dining crowd go way back. She worked decades ago with Steve Nygren and Richard Dailey, the original owners of the Peasant Dining Group, which operated (among other venues) the Pleasant Peasant and Mick's, two restaurants that set the tone for relaxed, friendly service and American bistro-style dining in Atlanta.
In 2001 Kalmanson and a partner took over the flagship Peachtree Street location of the Pleasant Peasant (now closed), and she continues to operate Downtown's Peasant Bistro. No surprise then that she named her Italian newcomer Campagnolo, one translation of which is "peasant." What does amaze, though, is that Kalmanson seems to have broken the curse of the space near the intersection of Tenth Street and Piedmont Avenue that previously housed subpar Big Red Tomato—and many underachievers before it.
An airy remodel with warm woods and soothing gray walls certainly helps. The menu views Italian cuisine through a New American lens: housemade focaccia with goat cheese and tomato sauce, trout with bacon and sun-dried tomato pesto, pork shank over garlic mashed potatoes with lemony gremolata, lamb shoulder in Marsala sauce. This is food designed to please a broad swath of tastes. Among the pastas, choose the comforting free-form lasagna over the waterlogged gnocchi in broth.
Spurred by Kalmanson's finesse with hospitality—a trademark of the Peasant locations through the years—the restaurant is already drawing robust, diverse crowds. It only opened in April but may soon be a neighborhood staple.