In the perfect Italian love story fashion you could say Waco’s Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante was born of that.
Indeed, because Massimo Di Campli would not be here if it weren’t for meeting his wife, Kristen, a Midway High School graduate, in the romantic Caribbean.
The two met on Kristen’s trip to the Cayman Islands where Di Campli was working as a general manager and wine director at a restaurant in Grand Cayman called Luca.
“While I was in Grand Cayman, I met my wife — born and raised in Waco,” Di Campli said. “She was visiting and after dating for less than a year we got married.”
He had been at the Grand Cayman restaurant for seven years when his life changed.
Kristen was visiting the Cayman Islands with her family and the two happened to meet at the beach. One beer led to their now five years of marriage and three children.
Prior to his time in the Caribbean, Di Campli had worked at restaurants throughout Europe and in Dubai.
Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante isn’t his first restaurant either. He began with what most Italians are known for: pizza.
He said since he was 14 years old he always knew he wanted to be in the restaurant business.
Di Campli is from Abruzzo in Italy, which is a small region east of Rome. His family still lives there.
The Abruzzo motto is “Forte e gentile,” which means “Strong and kind.”
The restaurant owner is now proving that strength and kindness to his patrons by the love of his menu and the desire to share his food culture in his new home.
“I owned a small pizza place in Italy when I was 20,” he explained. “After that I have been working for a lot of beautiful places around the world until today.”
If you love Italian food get ready for the real thing.
Meet the Chef
While he certainly can cook, he is not the chef at his restaurant.
“After I left Italy, I have been focusing on wine and front of the house,” which would be the natural progression of why owning an Italian restaurant in his new hometown is such a good idea.
Chef honors at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante go to Adam Starchman, who is from Idaho. It is Starchman, Di Campli says, who created all the menus and recipes.
The main cuisine at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante is a mix of both a northern and southern Italian style.
“It is a mix of both because I love to pick the best dishes from north to south,” he says.
Signature dishes on the Di Campli’s menu are both the pasta and the appetizers.
“Our chef has voice on the menu,” Di Campli said. “They are fantastic on research and development; they are part of this family, and they should take credit for the food.”
He says his customers love the appetizers “because they are delicious, different and fun to share;” the pasta “because noodles, ravioli and all sauces are house made” and the seafood “because they taste amazing and they are all shipped overnight to us; no frozen, just fresh.”
The restaurant also uses fresh ingredients and is what is called a “scratch kitchen” because all the food is made and cooked when it is ordered.
The best way to describe the menu would be authentic.
On the list of appetizers there are items such as Carpaccio, Tuna Crudo and the always necessary antipasto option.
For pizza lovers, the Margherita is always a go-to, but there also is a roasted fig that tastes straight from an Italian home.
For pasta, there is Linguine Alla Vongole on the menu, but remember since pasta is only a starter in Italy there is still the main dish.
You can choose entrees with steak, veal or salmon, for example.
The dessert menu is authentic Italian. If you are in the mood for more than gelato, then the Torta della Nonna (Grandma’s cake) is an classic in many Italian homes.
The Limoncello after-dinner drink is a favorite evening-ender, too.
A perusal of the wine list at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante is going to leave Italian wine snobs in heaven.
“Wine for me isn’t just a sales opportunity,” Di Campli said. “With a bottle of wine, you can travel to other countries, know the story behind the people and territory, and have an opportunity to share them with your guests.”
Tuscan wines are featured on the wine menu as are options from neighboring France. The California Chardonnays are worth checking out as are wines from the Veneto and the Campania region. And don’t miss the long list of Sangiovese options.
Having been in Waco five years, Di Campli opened his restaurant July 1 last year, right in the middle of the pandemic.
“It was and still is a really challenging,” he said. “The restaurant business itself is already a tough career. The pandemic made it even more difficult; however, the love and passion I have for this beautiful industry is growing even more.”
He said he has been seeing more customers coming through the doors, adding that it “seems like we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Even without a pandemic the restaurant industry has its challenges.
“Challenges in this industry are everywhere,” he said. “If you don’t love it, don’t do it. I love to be around guests regardless if I own the restaurant or not. Now that I can finally work for my own company the excitement is out of the roof.”
Di Campli said when it comes to the differences of owning a restaurant in Texas versus Italy — the bottom line is the same.
“The restaurant industry is about serving people; that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “We can make people happy by serving them, and there is nothing more gratifying than that. We are beyond grateful and thankful for our community.” ￼
Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante
6500 Woodway Drive, Suite 121
Mon-Thu, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 4 to 9 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.