Restaurant Review: Il Capuccino

One of the great things about living in downtown Sag Harbor is you can walk everywhere. Or, more to the point, you can walk to Il Capuccino and get a great, hearty meal in the best Italian-American tradition, drink a fair bit of wine, and walk back home. And, of course, the walking balances out the eating and the drinking…well, maybe not.

Il Capuccino (or Il Cap, or just “Cap’s,” it’s all good) is keeping the old styles alive, right down to the empty Chianti bottles (the basket kind) that hang from the ceiling. My super-sized teenage son has to be careful he doesn’t clock one with his head – last time we were there, he did quite a bit of inadvertent damage to the place.

Navigating successfully to our table on a recent, busy Wednesday, we discovered that our waitress was none other than Dan’s Best of the Best Sue Vinski, the famous singing waitress! This seemed as good a reason as any to celebrate, so we ordered up some drinks: a standard Pinot Grigio for me, an exotic Key Lime Martini for my wife. Now I don’t necessarily approve of using the sacred name “martini” for such fruity concoctions as this mixture of vanilla vodka, pineapple and lime juice, but it was a pretty tasty thing. It also went well with the cool, classic jazz that played in the background.

Speaking of drinks, for those who like to start their celebrating early, Il Capuccino has an a la carte Sunday Brunch that runs from noon to 3 p.m. (kudos to them for waiting until after church). Get this: During brunch, you can choose to have unlimited brunch cocktails (Bellini, Bloody Marys or Mimosas) for a flat fee of $25. I get dizzy just thinking about it.

Back to our dinner. Cap’s has quite an extensive menu, and that makes decisions a little harder. Luckily, a plate of warm, unctuous garlic knots arrived to aid our thought process, and appetizers were finally chosen. The teenager went with the Arugula Salad – arugula endive, and radicchio with, to quote the boy, “yummy goat cheese all over it.” The wife had the Tomato Tower special – delicious summer tomato with sweet red onion and flavorful fresh mozzarella – while I had the Cold Antipasto. Here the antipasto transcends the genre, with house-marinated mushrooms, cold roasted eggplant, a basil-infused chickpea salad, and many more such savory items. The chef also sent out a couple of baked clams for us to sample – a buttery, garlicky delight. More unexpected were the gluten-free Swedish Meatballs. Made with veal, they are a standout on Il Capuccino’s extensive gluten-free menu.

For my main course, I settled on a grilled swordfish from the specials menu. I thought perhaps to switch-out my wine for a rosé – contrary to rumor, there is still rosé available on the East End – but in the end I decided to stick with the Pinot Grigio. The swordfish, grilled to perfection, came accompanied by some subtly steamed veggies and a nicely complementary rice pilaf. The only off note was the zippy horseradish sauce, served on the side: this sauce would have been just the thing for a bit of beefsteak but here it would have totally overpowered the fish. I tasted it, but left it on the side. Otherwise, the dish was very good.

My wife liked her briny puttanesca very much. This dish has been in heavy rotation in our household for well over a decade, and it’s always nice to see the variations from different chefs. One rule I hold to: If it doesn’t have anchovies, then you shouldn’t call it puttanesca. Here it had the anchovies plus black AND green olives.

For the teenage boy, it was that old Italian-American standby – Eggplant Parmigiana. Rich – check; cheesy – check; covered with delicious tomato sauce – check; everything was just as it should be. It included a platter of spaghetti with more sauce. Just because it was nutritionally redundant didn’t mean it wouldn’t get eaten right there at the table. Those of us who have outgrown our youthful appetites would certainly bring most of it home with us – yet another grand tradition, alive and kicking at Il Capuccino.

Il Capuccino Ristorante, 30 Madison Street,
Sag Harbor. 631-725-2747, www.ilcapuccino.com.

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