Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cafe Capriccio

There's something about a place that you have to step down to get into that I love. And I love Cafe Capriccio. There - I said it. It is definitely my go to place whether it is a night out with the hubby or the girls. Even the Lilly children have been there! My first experiences at the Cafe were a long time ago - undergrad days, and they had nothing to do with the food. A friend I worked with at the original Yono's, had a little thing with someone who worked at the Cafe, and I remember (vaguely) some dancing on the bar in an after-hours sort of way. I believe the Rolling Stones were the music of choice. Good times.

Tom & I had our very first mock-Valentine's dinner there in 1993. What is mock-Valentine's you ask? It is the evening that restaurant industry people choose to celebrate a holiday, in this case V-day, since we all work on the real holiday - and we wouldn't be caught dead in a restaurant on a holiday anyway. We had that romantic little booth in the corner of the main dining room.. is a special little place with tons of atmosphere, more than competent service and solid food.

Through the years we've had numerous celebrations in both the main dining room and at the Chef's Table upstairs where owner, Jim Rua, (the Chief) holds court. The Chef's Table is awesome! It is almost like entertaining in your own dining room except you don't have to cook, serve or clean-up. The kitchen is open to the dining room and Jim puts out a spread of antipasti to start and is always more than willing to share his expertise with those wishing to learn authentic Italian cooking techniques. The food is bountiful and well matched by the flow of vino. Bliss.

Last night Tom & I stopped down at the Cafe for a little dinner at the bar. See - that's the kind of place it is: perfect for special occasions, family dinners, or romantic nibbles at the bar. There are a couple of things that we always seem to get when we are there - namely the eggplant and the ravioli of the day. This eggplant has seriously spawned eggplant all over the city of Albany! The eggplant appetizers at McGuire's, Creo and Cafe Madison all had their start at 49 Grand Street and it is certainly a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. The eggplant is battered and fried to a delicate crispness and then layered with a fresh tomato sauce and 4 varieties of cheese. Perfect as a substantial appetizer or coupled with a salad for an entree. Last night's ravioli inspiration was perfect for spring - the little pockets of yumminess were filled with artichokes and goat cheese and then finished with Capriccio's signature garlic cream sauce. Delicious! The fish special was sea bass and it was lovely, moist, firm and simple. Franco (Jim's son) served it with a beautiful risotto and spring veggies on the side and the plate was appealing to the palate as well as to the eye. We rounded things out with a half-portion (don't you love the half portion option?) of pasta. Our choice for the evening was the tagliatelle with duck confit, mushrooms, tomatoes and wine. It was the ideal blend of hearty and delicate and paired beautifully with the bottle of wine we drank, some Italian red that was fantastic - great job, Tom!

We finished our meal with an amazing chocolate orange gelato from Crisan coupled with a slice of Cheesecake Machismo's chocolate-espresso cheesecake. Here's the thing - I love chocolate and I love ice cream, but I don't like chocolate ice cream. However, this frozen confection transcends any frozen chocolate concoction I've ever experienced. If I were tasting it blindfolded (9 1/2 Weeks anyone?), I would have described it as orange-chocolate because the citrus was very much in the front of the flavor explosion in my mouth. It seriously has opened up new dessert doors for me - and I thank Jim Rua for including exemplary local products on his menu. That slice of cheesecake may have caused me to permanently suspend any future cheesecake making at my house...anyone need some spring-form pans? Don't imagine I'll be using them much after tasting that fine example of cheesecake deliciousness last night.

Joe took terrific care of us, as always, and we had a wonderful time trying to loosely structure our upcoming trip to Tuscany. After months of planning, our villa in Italy will be difficult to leave behind, but the promise of an evening at Cafe Capriccio will make coming home bittersweet.


  1. Sounds like a lovely night. I'm going to have to try this eggplant dish. Fried + cheese & sauce? I don't see how anything could go wrong.

  2. Yet another place that I haven't tried yet. It sounds like the perfect place to go sans kids.
    And kudos to them for having local desserts on their menu, if they're not going to do them in house, the next best thing is locally sourced for sure.

  3. sweetlytart - you must try it. It is truly a memorable experience all around. We have had so many special evenings and celebrations there that I feel like it is 2nd home. Ideal for a date night! Mangia!