Il Capuccino is a Sag Harbor landmark. It opened in 1972, and is still serving the delicious, homey Italian food that made it famous.
The restaurant, which locals call “Il Cap” or just “Caps,” brims with hospitality. Its dining room, welcoming with hanging Chianti bottles and owner Jack Tagliasacchi’s paintings of Italian scenery, has the cozy, unpretentious air of a place that knows its business and doesn’t need to show off. I like to think that it harkens back to an earlier, less gilded incarnation of Sag Harbor.
This is not to say that Il Cap doesn’t keep up with the times. In the last couple of years, as the problems associated with wheat gluten have become better-known, the restaurant has been ahead of the curve in making gluten-free pasta and other menu items available to customers. Of course, this is only consistent with the theme of hospitality: after all, just because somebody’s got a problem with gluten doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the party. On the other hand, there’s not as yet a gluten-free version of Il Cap’s famous garlic rolls—and it’s hard to imagine there ever being one.
Ahh, the garlic rolls. Crusty, chewy, oily, garlicky proofs of the wonders of wheat gluten. At Il Cap, they arrive unbidden at your table and disappear quickly. After a recent visit, one in our party confessed to having eaten four of them. To help wash them down, some of us ordered up the very nice house Prosecco, while I did my customary inspection of the bar’s martini-making skills—all is in order, I’m happy to report.
Next up, we chose a sampling of appetizers and salads from both the regular and specials menus. Some of the specials are on a weekly rotation, while others are seasonal—which is all by way of saying that they might not be on the menu when you go, but be on the lookout for them. The special salad of beets and goat cheese, now pretty much a winter staple at East End restaurants, was everything it should be—beets tender and sweet, and the goat cheese especially creamy. A special plate of mussels with dill met with high approval, as did my fresh spinach salad topped with garden mushrooms and a warm bacon dressing. Also nice was the arugula, endive and radicchio salad, which came with more of that luscious goat cheese.
Naturally, when you go to Il Cap you’re bound to eat some pasta—in fact, some of the entrées come with a side order of pasta topped with the restaurant’s heralded marinara sauce. A special treat, however, is the homemade cheese-stuffed tortelloni served with a creamy sauce flavored with roasted pistachios. It’s a rich delight for the pistachio lovers out there, and highly recommended. Also look for the special pasta entrée of spinach pappardelle, which came topped with five delicious, juicy jumbo shrimp that were done to perfection.
In what’s becoming somewhat rare, Il Cap has a fairly extensive range of veal dishes, ranging from the tried-and-true veal parmigiana to the classic saltimbocca alla Romana, thinly sliced veal cutlets topped with prosciutto, breaded and sautéed and then simmered in a white wine-sage reduction. Il Cap’s rendition, served with tender spinach, was just the thing for the veal-lover in our midst. A grilled swordfish steak was very nicely turned out, although I question the appropriateness of the horseradish accompaniment—it seemed like it was intended for a fish with a stronger flavor of its own.
Desserts, which are all made in house, include your Italian standards: tiramisu, cannoli, cheesecake. There’s also a special chocolate lava cake, which is served warm. We went with a cannoli and the tiramisu, which had all the creamy naughtiness we could have asked for.
In addition to dinner seven nights a week, Il Capuccino has a Sunday brunch starting at noon, with a lunch menu on offer from noon until 3 p.m. The brunch is famous for the so-called “bottomless” mimosas and bloody marys. And new at Il Cap: Friday is Martini Night, offering $6 martinis 5 – 7 p.m.
Il Capuccino Ristorante, 30 Madison Street, Sag Harbor. 631-725-2747, ilcaps.com