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Chef Mark Estee is opening a new Reno eatery, Campo.

Chef Mark Estee is opening a new Reno eatery, Campo.

Photo By amy beck

Campo opens Nov. 3. For more information, visit

What goes into the opening of a new restaurant?

“I’m banking on Reno,” says Mark Estee, chef extraordinaire and principal owner of Campo, a new riverfront eatery slated to open Nov. 3 at 50 N. Sierra in the Palladio. Opening a restaurant—at any time, but especially in these challenging economic times—is a huge risk. But Estee’s background and reputation allowed him to partner with 11 local investors for this venture.

“They have followed my career and are friends who have faith in what I can deliver,” he says. Business axiom No. 1 is location, location, location, and Estee thinks the on-the-river ambiance is right for Campo.

Ten years ago, he opened Moody’s Bistro in downtown Truckee, and it quickly became an area favorite. He also had his hand in the Village at North Star, and the two locations of Burger Me. He has been featured on the Food Network, and has been the private chef of celebrities from Sir Paul McCartney to Britney Spears. Estee has also made multiple guest chef appearances at the 4-Diamond Awahnee Hotel in Yosemite, the famed James Beard House in New York City, and the world-renowned Pebble Beach Food and Wine Expo.

He started thinking about this project two years ago and enlisted the help of local architect Larry Henry to take this 3,900-square-feet space and craft it into a gathering place, with a rustic, simple Italian décor. Cement floors, with tables and chairs built from reclaimed wood and recycled ceiling tiles. Cheney Construction, a local builder, provided the manpower for the project.

The biggest expense in any business is usually the lease on the property, and Estee said it took a lot of negotiations to get the landlord to agree to the needed tenant improvement costs to take the raw space and make it useable, especially in a condominium building. Campo also falls under Reno’s Redevelopment Agency, and that meant extra expense when installing grease catchers, fire safety equipment needed to get a critical part of his many building permits approved. Permits and inspections can impair and derail time-tables of projects, and restaurants are among the most highly scrutinized. Code standards demand specific health and safety requirements for both the staff and the public.

“The building permit process is a lot of jumping through hoops, and I want to acknowledge how efficient the city was, and how responsive,” says Estee.

The restaurant will have a full bar, seating for 120, tables and booths for the indoor space. It faces the river and will have a large, outdoor patio for the warmer months.

Menu prices will range from $4 to $22, and Estee promises a reasonably priced, wine list.

Estee has brought in a Cirigliano Forni, an all-wood pizza oven from Naples, Italy. The oven will be a show piece in the front of the restaurant. Everything is homemade from the pizza dough, to all the pastas and even the salami will be ground in-house. Campo will bring 40 new jobs to Reno. Along with Estee in the kitchen will be Chef Arturo Moscoso formerly of Peppoli at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Carmel-Monterey, Pastry Chef Debbie Reetz comes from the Charlie Palmer Group, and Giancarlos Pellegrino, who worked with Mark in Truckee, will be front-of-the-house manager.