Jason and I have been frequenting this new restaurant on Hylan Boulevard, and encouraging all of our friends to do the same. So far, everyone I’ve sent has come back very happy. A formal review of Capizzi is long overdue, so here you have it.
Capizzi opened a few months back. At first we were like, “Eh… more Italian food on Staten Island?” But the space looked cool, was close to our home, and they boast fresh pasta so that’s really all we needed to be lured in. And I have to say… we were really, really impressed.
Yesterday, when we stopped in for our meal, we requested a tasting so that we could be a little surprised, get some of the chef’s favorites dishes, and try some things that we typically wouldn’t try. So before I get into those dishes, I want to rewind a little to some of our absolute favorites from Capizzi:
- You must try the Lasagna Della Casa. I don’t even like lasagna and this dish completely blew my mind. It was the first thing I ever ordered at Capizzi, and since then every once in a while, I crave/need it. Instead of the loaded cheesy marinara sauced lasagna that we Staten Islanders are so, so sick of having at every buffet, this dish is a stack of perfect and fresh pasta, béchamel, and Bolognese sauces. Just trust me on it.
- The pizzas are great; I like them as an appetizer so I have room for pasta as an entree.
- Any of the meat and cheese boards. Jason and I are suckers for charcuterie. There’s nothing outrageous on these boards… no head cheese or pate or anything like that. But they are extremely good qualities of the basic Italian cheeses and meats. I really had forgotten how good a simple antipasto can be.
- Rock shrimp. This was a special a few weeks back. Why is an Asian dish on an Italian menu? I don’t know why. But it was so incredibly good, especially in the backdrop of a casual Italian eatery.
On to last night’s feast.
These were the specials of the day, which we were lucky enough to try a few of. The specials are always good, and usually they have something creative on the menu.
These are the little pizza flatbread/breadstick things they bring you when you first sit down. Loaded with delicious olive oily, salty, rosemary flavor. I usually eat three baskets.
And here was the wine we decided to go with… I’m no sommelier, but it was pretty damn tasty and I thought went really well with everything we ate.
We started out with the fennel salad, off of the regular menu. Fennel’s not my favorite thing, but I did find it to be an excellent summer dish… light, bright, and refreshing. Full of fennel flavor, as the name implies. Jason is a fennel freak and he was obsessed with this and licked the plate clean. If you love fennel it’s a no brainer.
Next was the Malanazne di Capizzi, also off of the regular menu. This is another one of our favorites. It’s eggplant stuffed with caciocavallo cheese (think a better version provolone), and drizzled with honey and orange. Totally different and yummy. I love that Capizzi has options like this that aren’t on every Italian restaurant’s menu.
This crab salad was off of last night’s special menu. Similar to the rock shrimp I mentioned earlier, it had a strong Asian influence. It reminded me of a seaweed salad with kani (crab) on top, except this had milder tasting julienned veggies, and with even more delicious hunks of crab meat. You could see the quality of ingredients the restaurant selects in this kind of dish. The spicy aioli was great too: it had a nice kick without being overwhelming or too spicy to enjoy, and the salad wasn’t drenched in it.
The pear ravioli (stuffed with ricotta and pear and drizzled with a walnut gorgonzola sauce), another special, was outrageous. It was the perfect balance of sweet and savory. And the sauce was simple enough to let the ravioli itself shine. The crunch of the walnut gave a nice texture to the smooth cheese filled pasta. Sometimes I get sad when Capizzi’s specials (like this one) come and go because I’m afraid I will miss them too much, but then an equally exciting dish shows up on the following week’s menu and I am somehow able to carry on.
The Spaghetti Al Pesto is on the regular menu. Here’s another dish that I love, but would probably never order at any restaurant just because it seems boring. So, let me be clear: this was not boring. Spaghetti with pesto is the kind of thing that I think, “Oh I can make that at home,”… but not like this. It was cheesy enough to be creamy, but not at all salty (sometimes more cheese means more salt), and not too heavy. The pasta itself was perfectly al dente and had just the right bite to it. I loved this dish and I think it may join the ranks of the lasagna as a very crave-able comfort food for me.
Now we moved on to entrees, which Jason and I never even make it to on the menu because we’re too excited for the appetizers and pastas. This was another special item: the Costellete di Vitelli (veal chops). I would never, ever, ever have thought to order this, but I am so happy that they thought to send it out. Dishes like this are the reason I love doing these kinds of tastings. First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever even had a veal chop. They were beautiful to look at. I was afraid that the meat would be dry or tough, but it was so tender and juicy. The wine and mushroom sauce was perfectly balanced, and the broccoli rabe was garlicky and strong and a nice bitter cut to the sweetness in the rest of the dish. Broccoli rabe is growing on me lately. The mashed potatoes I could have done without; they were a little boring. But there was plenty on this plate to keep me satisfied.
The Branzino was another special item, pan roasted in a tequila sauce. This dish was my least favorite. Not because there was anything particularly wrong with it, but it’s just not my style. The tequila sauce was buttery and flavorful, and the fish was cooked nicely. I think people who go for this kind of dish would love it. But every dish can’t be my favorite, and this one didn’t make the cut for me.
Next were the special cocktails:
We don’t usually go for such sweet cocktails. Jason and my go to drinks are dirty martinis (not too dirty), negronis, old fashioneds, and Manhattans… we typically stick to gin or whiskey. But I’ll admit… these were quite tasty and refreshing summer drinks. I think given the audience of Staten Island, that this is the kind of drink most people around here go for. It’s a smart move to come up with seasonal variations of these cocktails to keep people excited. Between the two, the coconut mojito was my favorite. It wasn’t overly minty, and the coconut flavor made me feel like if I closed my eyes I could be on a beach somewhere. The watermelon martini (pear vodka, watermelon, peach schnapps, and a splash of sour mix) had a really nice flavor, but was too sweet for me… a matter of preference, not error.
Despite the fact that I was so stuffed that I couldn’t really take full breaths, I managed to make room for dessert. There is, after all, always room for dessert.
We had tried these here before, and loved them. Desserts at Capizzi are always made fresh on site. Your options besides the Tiramisu and Panna Cotta are cannolis and a daily special that is always rotating. They’re consistently good.
So, ok, I think based on everything I’ve written you can tell that the food here is really, really good. They have a huge variety of options: antipasto platters, salads, tradition apps (calamari, baked clams, stuffed mushrooms), pizzas, pastas, meat and fish entrees. The quality is always great, the portions are generous, and the presentation is pretty. They come up with some really cool specials that I’m always excited to check out. Drinks are done well and they have a surprisingly nice selection of spirits. You really can’t go wrong on the food/drink end of this restaurant.
The other great (and I think very important) part about this place is the atmosphere and the way the employees make you feel. It’s easy on Staten Island to sometimes feel like you’ve been dropped into a scene from Goodfellas. In my opinion, some places try too hard to give off that vibe with forced loud accents and over the top personalities. But Capizzi feels authentic to me. The staff who are actually Italian sound Italian, not Staten Island – there’s a big difference. The manager, Stefanie, who helped us last night, was so genuinely excited for us to try as many things as possible. She wanted to explain every dish to us, and was so happy that we loved the pesto spaghetti because it was her mom’s recipe and she had spent the time to teach everyone exactly how to make it. Every time we come, the chef stops by our table to ask what we liked and what we didn’t like. I’ve seen him and the other staff playing soccer with kids with a crumpled up piece of foil in the outdoor area more than once. Our usual weeknight waiter (the young guy with tattoos on his arm) is always incredibly attentive and concerned with how we like our food. The people are simply very, very nice. The food is made fresh, and made with love… It’s a beautiful thing!
I am giving Capizzi a renowned five star Baconboozer rating because it is the kind of place I keep going back to and being surprised and impressed by. It may not have the craziest ingredients on the menu, but it has simple and inspired Italian dishes that are consistently executed expertly and an ambiance that makes you feel completely comfortable. That’s my kind of restaurant.