Manhattan, Chef, West Village, The Little Owl, Market Table, Kenmare, Farm Fresh, American, New York, Ingredients, Restaurant, Chef, Q&A, interview.


Chef Joey Campanaro won the hearts of New Yorkers when he opened the romantic corner restaurant, The Little Owl. The room was intimate and cozy (28 seats), the menu unpretentious, and the food delicious. The London Observer named The Little Owl’s hamburger as one of the 50 best things to eat in the world.

Previously, Chef Campanaro worked with chef Jimmy Bradley as the executive chef at the Harrison and Pace.

This spring, he became the chef at Kenmare, a new restaurant that will take over the shuttered space of Civetta (which in Italian means little owl).

You’ve had tremendous success with both the Little Owl and Market Table, what are some words of wisdom you can share about running a well-respected restaurant business?

When you know what works, maintain it with everything in your power to do so. Hire the right people to do the jobs that they want to do and support them. Don’t try to make the business be something it isn’t; focus on what it is every day! Consistency is what drives repeat business.


How often do you feel the need to change items on your menu and what inspires the change?

The seasons inspire the change.


You and Mikey both worked with Chef Jimmy Bradley, what do you think you learned from working along side him?

I learned how important it is to enjoy life and how important it is to treat all employees with respect – from the dishwashers to GM’s. It’s not what you do; it’s how you do it. I made many mistakes working alongside him and he was always very patient and nurturing with me; I cannot thank him enough for his guidance. Jimmy is a class act and has been influential in my career. I am lucky to know him and to have worked for him for many years. I love the guy!


You’ve appeared on Iron Chef American. Are you really allowed to pick the chef you challenge?

Yes, you pick your opponent.

How did you decide to go against Cat Cora?

I chose Cat because of the similar styles in which we cook, she actually switched it up and went southwestern on me and won, I guess that’s why she is the Iron Chef and I am not.

What do you think was your strong point in the competition and what was your weak point?

I think my strong points were across the board a winning formula.  I was told the plating, uniqueness, creativity and taste were the strong points. I think Gellman didn’t get what I was doing and his judging brought my score down and I lost.


What is your least favorite new culinary trend and why?

I have problems with menu descriptions. I think certain words do not need to be on a menu and I don’t understand how they are perceived as selling points. The word “young” for instance, it doesn’t do anything for me. Or “slow-braised” - how do you fast braise? I don’t get it. Oh and adding the letter “y” to words like lettuce to describe something really gets me bummed out. I don’t even know exactly why, I am usually laid back and less opinionated about most things. But the word “lettucey” really makes me upset. It isn’t even a word.


The Little Owl is one of the city’s most desired and most difficult reservations to obtain, any insider guidance for people trying to score a table?

Yes, we always suggest that diners who anticipate dining with us, without a reservation, simply come to the restaurant one hour before they want to be seated. Chris and Jon, the MD’s here are very helpful with taking their cell numbers and sending them somewhere in the neighborhood to hang-out until the table is ready and then they call them and have them return to a set table. There is also a little area here at Little Owl to wait until seats clear. We call it the perch and it’s a very cool place to hang out and have some wine and hors d’oeuvres with a great a view of the kitchen and the dining room.


The sliders at the Little Owl have been a huge success for you, what’s the key ingredient that makes them stand out?

I use water in the mixture when rolling out the balls. They are then individually pan fried and then slowly cooked in the gravy. I also bake the buns here, I think the roasted garlic and sharp pecorino help to make them unique, but I’d have to say that water is the ingredient that makes them stand out because I’ve never seen that as a meatball ingredient. Also, I put fennel seeds in the gravy which adds an unexpected change to the flavor profile. I’m really happy that people like them.


Was there ever a dish on the menu that just didn’t work out and any idea as to why?

Not at Little Owl.


What are the least “chefy” and most “chefy” things you like to eat?

Least “chefy” – hot ham & cheese sandwich, lipton noodle soup and lemon pepper steamed broccoli.

Most “chefy” – sauteed John Dory with lobster tomato ravioli and white truffles.

Is there something you always keep in stock at your home that you would advise a home cook to stock?

Lemon pepper seasoning.

Which purveyors inspire your creativity and why?

Eric Tevrow supplies my fish. We have menu pow - wows all the time together. He is an authority on availability of the freshest sea foods. 


Favorite off the beaten track places to eat, that you’d be excited to take an adventurous eater, and why?

Perilla is a restaurant off the beaten track due to its location on Jones Street. Harold is a friend and he’s an extremely talented chef. He finds great ingredients to use on his menu there, and I’ve never had a bad meal there.


What restaurants do you like to eat at on your own time, other than your restaurants or home, and why?

I really enjoy the cooking at Soto – it’s ethereal! I always find myself craving Japanese food.


Your wife is from Spain, can you share some insider local restaurants that she turned you onto?

Not so much for the food, but for the history and vibe, we go to a place called Spain Restaurant on 13th street. The owner works every day. Whenever we go, we hang out at the bar and the owner sends us free tapas. It’s weird, but it’s totally true and a funky, fun NYC experience.


As a chef, you have the opportunity to travel around the world; can we ask you to share some of your favorite places to eat either in the US or abroad?

Casa Pepico in Valencia, Spain. You have to drive through chufas farms to get there. Chufas are what are used in Valencia to make horchata. The food is outstanding and the wine list offers incredible values. We go there every time we are in Spain and always enjoy it immensely.

Is there a recipe we can get you to share?

See below.


Joey Campanaro’s recommendations on where to eat in New York and Valencia, Spain.


Joey Campanaro’s’ recommendations on where to eat in New York and Valencia, Spain.

Broiled Halibut with Corn, Peas, and Pesto Vinaigrette

Recipe Courtesy of Joey Campanaro



- 1 teaspoon pine nuts

- 1 clove of garlic

- 1/4 cup olive oil

- 1 bunch fresh basil

- 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese


- 1 egg yolk

- Juice from 1 lemon

- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

- 3/4cup vegetable oil

Vegetable Salad

- 1 cup roasted corn  (roasted whole in the oven, cooled and cut from the stalk)

- 1 cup blanched English peas

- 3 red grape tomatoes cut in half

- a few slices of red onion

- a few snow pea sprouts

- some picked frissee

Dressing for Salad

- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

- 1 diced shallot

- 1/4 cup virgin olive oil


- Place the fish on a buttered baking pan.

- Lightly season with salt and white pepper then mix a little pesto with the aioli.

- Generously lather the pesto aioli onto the fish.

- Bake in 450 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.

- Remove from the oven and carefully plate the fish on top of a salad of mixed corn, peas, tomatoes; pesto, sprouts, frissee, red onion and a little vinaigrette. 


New American

Little Italy

98 Kenmare Street

New York, NY 10012 (view map)

T: 212.274.9898


Daily: 5pm -



West Village

90 Bedford Street

New York, NY 10014 (view map)

T: 212.741.4695



Mon- Fri: 12pm - 2:30 pm

Sat - Sun: 11am - 2:30pm

Mon - Sat: 5pm- 11 pm

Sun: 5pm  - 10pm



West Village

54 Carmine Street

New York, NY 10014 (view map)

T: 212.255.2100 (make a reservation)



Sat - Sun: 10:30am - 2:30pm

Mon - Fri: 11:30am - 2:30pm

Mon - Thu: 5:30pm - 11pm

Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 12am

Sun: 5pm - 10pm