Monday, April 12, 2010

Capriccio Cafe

If ever there was a day to enjoy the rays of the afternoon sun and the slightly chilly early spring breeze, today was that day. At times I feel like a tree: provide me with water, feed me and give me sunlight and I shall flourish. So it’s no small wonder that my husband and I, along with my eight-and-three-quarters year old stepson Robert, ventured out of doors for lunch on such a splendid day.

Our initial plans were to drive to Port Chester, NY to have lunch, but the restaurant that we wanted to go to unfortunately was not open for lunch on Mondays. It was on to Plan B. Capriccio Café, a small, trendy and stylish Italian eatery on Bedford Street in Stamford, was our back-up plan.

When we arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon, the outdoor patio was just beginning to clear out from the lunch crowd and there were plenty of seats to choose from. Except for a small, fluffy patch floating lazily by overhead, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky—the perfect day for truly dining out.

Capriccio Café did have indoor seating, but why waste the beauty of nature by restricting ourselves to the confinement that walls offer? Besides, the inside area—of which there were two, separated oddly by the lobby/walkway of the building—was rather small and a bit too cozy.

We sat down at a mesh metal table at the edge of the patio and enjoyed the not-so-blistering rays of the early afternoon sun. Although blandly pleasant, the waiter that approached our table seemed less interested in small talk and banter and more interested in taking our order—even though we had only been seated for roughly 60 seconds.

“Give us a few minutes, please,” I said with a bit of an edge to my voice. I detest being rushed when it comes to food. A true foodie must take the time to digest the information, ruminate on it and then make a decision that they won't regret. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Capriccio Café’s menu is quite extensive, beginning with the antipasti selections. While some of the items sound like your standard appetizer choices from any other Italian restaurant around town, there were a couple that raised my eyebrow more than a centimeter or two. The Braised Octopus in Umido (braised octopus, white wine, crushed pepper and tomato sauce) actually sounded tasty. Unfortunately, if I’m going to devour octopus, I would prefer the fried variety. I even took a liking to the Vongole Posillipo—New Zealand clams sautéed in white wine, garlic and tomato sauce—and would probably had been convinced with little persuasion to try them . . . if I were a lover of clams (which I’m not).

Then there were at least fifteen different types of paninis to choose from. How in the hell am I expected to make a wise decision from the multitude of choices staring back at me from the shiny pages of the menu? There was the Granchino with crab cake, lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce; Affumicato, with smoked salmon, goat cheese, capers, red onion and mixed green; and Speck (which is a meat similar to prosciutto) with scamorza, lettuce and tomatoes on focaccia bread. I almost went for the Valeria—grilled chicken, gorgonzola and roasted peppers—which I assumed to be an ode to my name, but decided against it at the last minute.

I barely had the time or energy to look at the rest of the menu—from the Porchetta sandwich with thinly sliced roasted pork with caramelized onions, provolone and balsamic reduction sauce, to the tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and mushrooms Contadina pizza to the simplistic sounding Penne al Pesto—it was all giving me a headache.

Maarten (who would be ordering for Robert) and I both looked over our respective menus and contemplated what would end up on our plates that afternoon. Normally, I’m all over some sort of appetizer, but on that day I decided to slow down cow poke—I had burned over 600 calories during my intense morning workout and didn’t want to undo all the good that I had done.

Skipping the starters, we waited for our uninterested waiter to return to the table to take our orders. I was feeling sort of green and veggie-like, so I went straight for the Insalate selections. Even that was a chore as there were roughly 15 salads to weed through. Finally, after much deliberation, eye crossing and talking to myself, I took a chance on the Mia Salad with sun dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms and grilled chicken sautéed in shallots with balsamic sauce heated through and draped on a bed of mixed greens. Lacking that one special gene that would allow me to fully appreciate and be completely enamored with fungus, I opted to drop the mushrooms from the dish.

Robert sat quietly at the table and busied himself with his Nintendo contraption. Meanwhile, Maarten ordered a very basic and boring tomato sauce, mozzarella and chicken cutlet Parmigiana pizza for Robert, and the slightly more elevated Barese pizza for himself. While similar, his selection was more sophisticated than that of the Parmigiana with the additional ingredients of sundried tomatoes, goats cheese and mushroom. Probably not the best pizza choice for a child, but, even though a child at heart, Maarten was going to do his level best to eat it for all it was worth.

While we waited for our salad and pizzas to arrive, I became transfixed with Mother Nature in action: a tiny, brown breasted bird (possibly a sparrow) that looked like a clump of dried clay sporting a beak and wings was burrowing in the dirt and shaking its tail feathers. Rumor has it birds went through this bathing ritual to rid themselves of parasites. I didn’t know for sure, but the entire process was strangely fascinating to me and I couldn’t help but steal furtive glances in the bird’s direction every so often.


When the waiter schlepped back over—really, this guy was far less engaging than a mannequin—he brought with him our bounty of food. The Mia salad was a colorfully attractive display of mixed greens, chicken and sun dried tomatoes. The strips of chicken, which had been sautéed in shallots and balsamic sauce, almost looked like French fries. Guess I still have fried foods on the brain.

This dish would have been a hands-down winner had it not been for some of the chicken being slightly overcooked which rendered the meat a bit rubbery and chewy. I felt like I should be blowing bubbles any minute now. However, not all of the poultry on the plate was affected by this pitiful malady, which saved the generous portion of salad from being a major catastrophe. The addition of two triangles of flat bread with just a hint of olive oil and herbs was a delightful complement to the salad. Hmmmm . . . I should have asked for more of those.

Robert put his Nintendo down long enough to ooooh and aaaah at his thin crust Parmigiana pizza. Yes, it was a, well, nice looking pizza (and as Robert has been known to say after learning this little tidbit of info from his teacher back home in England, "'nice' is not a good descriptive word to use") but I didn’t hold out much hope for it tasting any better than, say, a glorified piece of cardboard. I guess Robert proved me wrong when he took his first bite, contorted his face into what looked like a mask of pain—in a good way, not a bad way—and exclaimed “This is good!” Luckily I didn't have to eat my words.

Maarten was even more excited by the looks and taste of his Barese pizza. I’m not sure, and he would probably ignore me if pressed on the issue, but I think it was the goat cheese that elicited that embarrassing audible “whoop!” from him. After a bit of coaxing and reassurance that there wasn’t fungus in every bite, I tried a small corner of his pizza, sans mushroom. It was as good as the rolling of his eyes in the back of his head led me to believe. The sweet chewy sun dried tomatoes were fabulous comingled with the chicken and goat cheese, and the slightly tangy and acidic tomato sauce helped to balance out the myriad of flavors.

Once again, we decided to forego dessert—frankly, there was no room for anything else in our bodies for much else besides air. Although Maarten and Robert were totally satisfied with their pizzas, neither one could manage to finish the whole pie, which is a testament to the portions that Capriccio Café serves. Leftovers! True, the pizzas were roughly ten inches, but when you factor in the multitude of toppings that they so generously toss on top, there’s a lot of food to be had in one sitting.

It looked like we had hit on another winner. And when I wasn’t in one of my obnoxious “I’ve got to lose weight so I’m gonna graze on a salad” moods, I plan to be back to try one of those delicious sounding paninis or a perhaps an overstuffed sandwiche.

Is Capriccio Café recommended? Yes, definitely, especially when the weather is permitting. The menu is full of lots of great looking selections, and many of the plates that I spied being placed on tables around the patio were plentiful and overflowing with food.

Is Capriccio Café a good value or do you need to take out a loan to eat here? Capriccio Café is reasonably and affordably priced. As there is so much to choose from on the menu, if you’re on a budget it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a dish—whether it’s an appetizer or an entrée—that falls within a decent price range. Paninis range from $6.50 to $8.75, pizzas are $6.50 to $10.50, the pasta dishes go for $11.00 to $15.00 and main entrées climb up to $18.00 (not taking into account the specials of the day).

What about atmosphere and ambience? In warmer weather, I’m a strong proponent of outdoor dining. Having said that, Capriccio Café gets a positive nod for having a large patio space on which to dine. Unfortunately, it is practically curbside, so if you’re distracted easily, the cars zipping down Bedford Street could be a disruption to your meal.

Capriccio Café
189 Bedford Street
Stamford, CT 06901
(203) 356-9544

No comments:

Post a Comment