A First Look at Il Casale Cucina Campana’s Debut Menu

Chef Dante de Magistris' new spot will focus on Neapolitan street food and traditional Campanian pastas.

dante magistris

Chef Dante de Magistris of Il Casale Cucina Italiana + Bar in Lexington. Photo provided

Dante de Magistris, of Restaurant Dante in Cambridge and Il Casale Cucina + Bar in Belmont, tells us that he will be opening his latest restaurant, Il Casale Cucina Campana in Lexington, by May 23. Unlike his previous restaurants, which encompass flavors and techniques from all over Italy, the chef’s newest concept will focus on the regionally specific cuisine of Campania. De Magistris’ Lexington menu features recipes either handed down directly from his grandmother, a native of Candida, or are otherwise inspired by his extensive travels in the area.

“Most of the menu is food that I grew up with,” de Magistris says. “I just love the food in Campania. When I go there, I’ll eat more than I do here and I feel better, healthier, and I tend to lose some weight at the same time. People have the misconception that food from Southern Italy is very heavy. But, the food is actually really clean and delicate. Very few ingredients are used and everything is just presented simply.”

Some of the standout dishes that will differ from Il Casale Belmont include “tavola calda,” or Neapolitan Street Food, a section of baked pastas, and that Naples specialty, pizzaiola topped with tomato braised beef, pine nuts, and raisins.

“The tavola calda is a new playful section of the menu,” de Magistris says. “If you’re walking through Naples, you’ll see these little stations where they’re boiling oil and making fried pizzas or frying-off potato and mozzarella croquettes. It’s snack food that you can just grab and eat in the middle of the day. That’s the part of the menu that is not so healthy. But we’ll also be doing a lot of seafood. The Campania region, even high up in the mountains, is known for seafood and baccala. Even today, when they have cars and trucks that can make daily deliveries, they stay pretty traditional with preserved seafood in the mountains and fresh seafood on the coast. In Lexington, there will be a lot of whole-roasted or steamed fish dressed with salt and really good raveche (a native Campanian olive) olive oil.”

The section of pasta al forno includes classic family-style lasagnas and gnocchetti made to-order in individual crocks, which help de Magistris maintain the integrity of his house-made pastas. Il Casale Cucina Campana will also feature a rotating selection of imported Gragnano pasta (scialatielli and paccheri, to start with), a dense, dried noodle made with hefty durum wheat. “Every town around Mount Vesuvius revolves around pasta,” de Magistris says. “The problem is that they take 20 minutes to cook, so we’ll have a couple on the menu if guests are willing to wait that long. Neapolitans love their pasta super al dente. To get that specific bite though, the pasta has to be very dry.”

Il Casale Cucina Campana is designed by de Magistris, his brothers and business partners Filippo and Damian, and Glickman Design Studio. The 138-seat restaurant has a rustic Italian feel with finishes like hand painted tiles made in Vietri and an antique, floor-to-ceiling map of Campania lining the wall at the end of the bar.

“We’ve been looking all over Massachusetts for a new restaurant, including in Boston, but my brother Filippo moved out to Lexington and really fell in love with it,” de Magistris says. “I feel like the guests in Lexington are very similar to the demographic in Belmont, and if they’re as supportive and appreciative as Belmont has been, it’ll be a win-win for all of us.”

Il Casale Cucina Campana + Bar Menu

*menu is subject to change

1727 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington.