Restaurant Reviews --> Capri, Indianapolis
An Indianapolis Institution
There are a number of our readers that carry on a lively email correspondence with us. But, perhaps none is more lively than local wine maven, good customer and sometime newsletter contributor, Jim Mathias. I have often told Jim that he would be welcome to write this newsletter every week. Unfortunately, Lilly pays him too much money to do other things, so we'll settle for occasional doses of his wit. I knew that Jim and his wife, Charlene, are long time fans of Amalfi restaurant at 86th and Ditch, so when we planned a visit to the new Capri restaurant, we asked them to come along. Since Jim seldom meets a meal or wine he doesn't like and I seldom find one I can't critique, I thought a review from two perspectives might be fun. Jim wrote the basis for this review. His comments are prefaced with JM, and the Wine Guy comments appear after a WG, in italics and parentheses.
(WG - Capri has been an Indianapolis institution for as long as I can remember. It was a traditional red sauce Italian restaurant, owned by a Greek family, with a piano bar and a family room. My parents frequented the original location at 54th and Keystone. At some point in the 80s, the family moved the restaurant to a fancy new building at 75th and Keystone where, without its local trade, it languished and finally failed. Arutro, owner of the existing Amalifi's and Arturo's Italian restaurants purchased the property and completely remodeled and reopened under the old name, thankfully, without the smoky bar and schmaltzy piano player.)
JM - The Pendeltons and the Mathiases journeyed to the north side to check out Arturo's new restaurant, Capri. Arturo's first place is Amalfi's, located in the Greenbriar shopping center at 86th Street and Ditch Road. Capri, like Amalfi's, is definitely an "adult" dining experience. There is no kid's menu, no booster chairs, and the entrées are priced predominantly in the $15 - $22 range. The crowd is generally a bit older - mainly Boomer-era folks - with a few others on either end. Typical of many Indy restaurants, the more senior diners eat earlier, and the Boomers later. We had an 8:00PM reservation and were the last diners to leave at 10:00PM. Dress code seems to be upscale casual with a paucity of jackets and ties with ladies in elegant black whatever-ware. (Personally, I thought our ladies, as always, were the belles of the ball!)
JM - Arturo seated us at a great corner table overlooking the large and comfortable dining room. The restaurant's space is split approximately 60/40 with the dining area slightly larger than the very large lounge section. They are divided by a l-o-o-o-n-g glassed-in wine storage area facing the dining room. And a very impressive floor-to-ceiling, environmentally controlled, beautifully racked wine storage area it is, too! The seating is comfortably arranged, the lighting subdued, and the place is very conducive to holding actual conversations among dining companions! We mention this because some other cavernous popular Italian restaurants with their tile floors and hard wall surfaces magnify any and all sounds - rendering quiet conversation impossible. The attention to creating a quiet, relaxing environment in which to enjoy a wonderful dining experience is appreciated after a long work-week.
(WG - I concur, the atmosphere is indeed very comfortable and conducive to enjoying the company of friends. The wine wall is also very impressive. Oh, but that the woefully short wine list deserved such an edifice!)
JM - After we settled into our seats, our server, Janine, took control of making our stay an enjoyable one. Arturo's signature complimentary appetizer of sautéed eggplant slices presented in light olive oil accompanied by GREAT little warm crusty round rolls materialized quickly. Nice olive oil was also on the table for dipping the bread.
Appetizers were the usual small, breaded, and fried calamari (complete with the "feet-y thingys") served with a light marinara sauce. Tonight it was simply "OK" - not unusually tender. Since we've had Arturo's calamari nearly every time we dine at his places, we've learned that it can range from great to OK to "off." Life is like this. We also had their mozzarella and prosciutto ham di parma with olives dish. The mozzarella was heavenly soft, nutty-flavored, and tasty with fresh cracked black pepper. Eating suggestion: make little "ham sandwiches" out of the rolls, the cheese and the thin-sliced prosciutto and dredged in the olive oil. With the soft Italian red wines, YUMMY!
Three of us selected salads - Caesars all (hold the anchovies, please). Jim had the lentil soup - which was home-made style - nice, thick, and tasted as if it was made yesterday and then re-heated today (the ONLY way to have excellent bean or lentil soup so the flavors and texture develop "right"). Good stuff.
The entrées arrived well timed and piping hot. Charlene gave a "thumbs up" to her salmon en croute. Sweet, tender, and served with a side of delicious escalloped potatoes. Linda had crepe filled with veal and chicken that was the evening special that she pronounced rich and delicious. The boys, however, may have had the prize of the night. The "big boy" special that evening was a rolled concoction made up of layers of ham, veal, and lamb with wonderful tender mushrooms swimming in a sweet marsala wine sauce. Neither of us could resist it. Two generous slices and more sauce accompanied the thick-sliced escalloped potatoes. Calories, anyone? Between this dish and the "little ham sandwiches." Doug and I both put our cholesterol emergency services on full alert. But, doesn't good Italian red wine eliminate the artery-clogging goo? Yeah . . . THAT's the ticket!
Dessert: are you kidding??? Doug and I both would have had to check into St. V's cardiac care unit immediately after dinner. So, see the comments on the Amarone, below, for our liquid dessert.
(WG - Yup, life is like that Jim, but there is no excuse for mediocre calamari in a good Italian restaurant. These were just "ok" with way too many tentacley things... However, the excellent fresh mozzarella, olives and Italian proscuitto went a long way toward making up for the just "ok" squid. As did Jim's thick, rich-like-Mama- used- to-make lentil soup. The Caesars that followed were adequate, if fairly ordinary, with a little too much moisture left on the lettuce diluting the dressing.
Since all of us ordered the entree specials, it is a little difficult to really evaluate the menu. I guess we will have to assume that since our entrees were uniformly very good, their basic pasta probably is too. For the record the, menu contains 8 pasta dishes ranging from $13 to $15, and 9 entrees, served with choice of soup or salad, at $16 to $23.)
JM - We have had most of Arturo's menu items over time. Can't say that we have ever had a bad entree. The Pasta dishes are consistently al dente, the sauces well prepared, and anything made with their mushroom and Marsala sauce est molto bene!
JM - A bit of notice is in order on the carta d'vino: we know it's definitely on the high side. While house wines are available in carafes and by-the-glass, there is no bottle of red wine to be had for under $29. The lower priced selections are way overpriced in our humble opinion. The best values-for-money are to be found in the $39 - $60 per bottle range. Over the course of the evening, we consensed on the selection of three reds.
The first was the 1997 Lachryma Christi de Vesuvio by Mastroberardino at $39. "Lachryma Christi" in Italian means "tears of Christ." Wine Spectator rated the '99 at 88 points and said "Big, juicy, and chewy red. Dark ruby color, with loads of spicy black pepper character." The Mathiases have been drinking this one for several years at Amalfi's and it is always wonderfully consistent.
The second bottle of red was the 1997 Pomino Rosso from Frescobaldi, a Cabernet Merlot blend at $39. This was definitely a better food wine than a cocktail wine.
The last wine was a nice 1995 Amarone della Valpolicella from Luigi Righetti at $40. The only review I could find on it was from www.tastings.com: " 83 points ? Deep garnet hue. Subdued herb and leather nose. A firm entry leads to a ripe, rounded, moderately full-bodied palate. A straightforward, chunky Amarone without the traditional complexity and depth. Drink now or later." Dittos from us on the notes, but I think it should have been scored in the 85-87 range (but I LIKE big, in-your-face reds!). Nothing fancy or subtle here. Nice for dessert all by itself to reflect on the nice meal you just had - think "Port-Lite." Decent fruit and nose with a sweet, Port-like finish.
(WG - In light of the magnificent "wine wall," I was very disappointed in a short wine list that only contained wines currently sitting on local distributors' shelves. As Jim said, the prices on the low end were a little extreme but fair on the more expensive wines. For example, the Antinori Santa Christina Sangiovese that we sell for $11 was $29 on his list, yet the 1997 Lachryma, a $25 retail wine, was only priced at $39.)
The Mastroberardino "Lachryma Christi" was the best of the three wines and would be my enthusiastic recomendation should you visit Capri. The Frescobaldi Pomino Rosso 1997 was a little lean and acidic for my taste and makes the wonderful Falesco Vittiano blend we sell at $11 here in the store look like even more of a value. I like my Amarone to be a little more food friendly than Luigi's offering but timed as it was, its late harvest qualities made for a very nice finish to the meal.)
JM - Restaurants of this caliber deserve a richer selection of red wines. Especially in the $20 - $35 price range where there are any number of great wines that would produce good markup for the restaurateur and a value-for-money benefit for the dinner.
JM - The service was smooth, professional and efficient. Friendly, attentive Janine gave an excellent recitation of the many menu specials that evening - all from memory, knew the wine list rather well, and replenished our bottled water frequently The wine was presented professionally with fresh glasses for each bottle. The only comment would be that the fill-level on the pours was perhaps a bit "enthusiastic." But, service was provided when needed, and we appreciated the fact that the wait staff didn't hover over us constantly during the meal.
(WG - The Aqua Panna still water at $5 per bottle was a nice alternative to the stuff IWC takes out of Fall Creek. The service was indeed smooth, professional and efficient. And, one word to Janine left the wine bottles in our control for the evening. I suspect that servers have been trained to try and empty the bottle on the first pass and continually fill glasses because empty bottles sell wine. I find myself more and more comfortable politely asking the server to simply leave the wine on the table after they open it. Just tell them that you're "a trained professional,'' it always makes them wonder what you do.)
(Overall I think we all agreed that dinner at Capri was a pleasant experience with good food, wine, service and company. And, while a little pricey at $70 a head, the tariff could be reduced substantially with less adventurous wine choices.)
JM - But, what were we supposed to DO??? After all, After all, we were dining with The Wine Guy. We had to have something to review, didn't we??? ;-)
2602 Ruth Drive
Indianapolis IN 46240
317 259 4122