Lowell’s Own Anthony Bourdain

Jim Campanini

By: John Macdonald – February, 2015 

Some of us are familiar with the numerous television shows, books and magazine articles of the culinary adventurist Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is an articulate communicator that transports the viewer or reader, though the back streets and rarely seen parts of the world, while showcasing the culinary specialties that these places offer. As Bourdain navigates the narrow walkways of almost anywhere in the world he mesmerizes you, while describing the local people, sounds and smells of the locations he has found. All the while, often just sitting on an old milk crate, feeding a stray cat and dining in an open-air café. Bourdain walks with swagger, is grungy, his clothes scream for an iron and his hair a barber. He’s Indiana Jones with a spoon and I love it.

Lowell has its own version of Anthony Bourdain, but showered. This man I speak of is the writer of Wine Novice blog, Jim Campanini. The comparison between Bourdain and Campanini might not be obvious upon first glance, but the common thread these two have is quite striking. While Bourdain might travel more often and to much more exotic locations, Jim takes you to lesser known parts of the United States, Italy or even locally in Lowell, showcasing his latest find in wines. Jim describes the locations he travels and the people whom he meets with his own unique literary prose. Whether it be a past trip to Italy, Walla Walla, Washington or meeting a specialty wine purveyor like Drew Bledsoe, Jim transports you. He feeds the curiosity and the soul of any wine enthusiast or casual observer seeking a little adventure.

Jim Campanini, the description of the people he meets and where he meets them often reminds me of the late great sports writer Dick Schaap. Schaap a New Yorker who had a passion for people and their stories, met them weekly while he was alive, at the legendary restaurant Rao’s in East Harlem. Schaap was renowned for the stories he told from the regular table he reserved at Rao’s. Jim like Schaap, meets people, listens intently and shares his passionate palate for wines and the food that may compliment them, usually at his favorite Lowell hangout on Gorham Street … Ricardo’s. In a way, Jim through his writing has helped Ricardo’s become a bit legendary in its own right. Read the Wine Novice blog and you’ll understand why.

Romeo had Juliet and Frankie had Johnnie. Of all the adventures Jim takes, wines he reviews and people he meets, all take a back seat in comparison to the Wine Goddess. The Wine Goddess, Mrs. Campanini is what I would describe from reading the Wine Novice, is Jim’s true north. Every adventure, mishap or needed advice, comes from his faithful sidekick and fellow novice wine connoisseur, the Wine Goddess. Her interesting observations seemingly keep Jim on his toes and provide him a companion in content, throughout their adventures.

So for those of you who have not found the Wine Novice (http://blogs.lowellsun.com/winenovice), I encourage you to do so. Adventures await you as well as the discovery of our own local Anthony Bourdain. However, unlike Bourdain, Jim is accessible. Unlike Bourdain, you may just run into Jim on a downtown street or in a local restaurant. And unlike Anthony Bourdain, Jim is showered and usually sporting one of his numerous ties, which is another story for another day.

Seek the Wine Novice. It’s your passport and adventure awaits…