Sunday, May 27, 2007

Il Capriccio

About a week ago, I made dinner reservations for Il Capriccio in Waltham. It has long been been praised in the media and by devoted foodies. But, I have recently read a few negative reviews on some of the local foodie boards. They felt the food was too expensive, portions too small and the food just ordinary. For me though, I had positive expectations.

Jeannie Rogers, one of the restaurant's co-owners, also operates Adonna Imports, a wine importing company. They import primarily Italian wines, usually from small producers. I first tried some of the wines in their portfolio at the Grapevine Travelers wine store. I very much enjoyed the wines, including a Dolcetto and Barbera. They were different than other Italian wines I have had. I later found more of their wines at the Wine Shop in Reading and enjoyed them too. And last weekend, I got to try even more of their wines at a tasting at the Grapevine Travelers. I met Eileen there, who also works as a bartender at Il Capriccio.

Based on my experiences with their wine portfolio, I felt that Jeannie Rogers truly had a passion for wine. And if she had such passion, then I felt it would transfer to her restaurant as well. And if so, then the restaurant should be excellent too. So, I went with high expectations.

I used Open Table to make my reservations and noted that it would be my first time dining there, but that I was a fan of the wines of Adonna Imports.

Last night, we got to the restaurant a bit earlier than our 7pm reservation to have a drink at the bar. Their drink menu includes many different items, from sherries to prosecco, and martinis to wine. They do not have a long list of wines by the glass though. There were only about 4 red wines available by the glass, though the two that we had were very good. Their list by the bottle though is quite extensive and concentrates on Italian wines. This has to be one of the best Italian wine lists I have ever seen. It includes many different types of Italian wines that you do not usually see on wine lists. There was a good range of prices, from inexpensive bottles to high end bottles. We ordered a 2001 Pinot Nero (the winery name escapes me) from the Trentino Alto Adige region. This was a superb wine, like a fine Burdgundy but with a spicy edge, from an intriguing region of Italy. As it is like a Pinot Noir, it is a bit lighter and went well with all of our food.

We were seated at 7:15pm. The restaurant was packed and it is more than obvious that this is a very popular restaurant. Though reservations are highly recommended, you might be able to sit and eat in the bar without them. The tables can be a bit close together though there are good acoustics and it does not seem like a noisy place.

The menu is small but has a very diverse selection, which apparently changes monthly. Whatever your preferences, you should be able to find something you like. There are dishes with chicken, pork, fish, steak, pasta and more. It is also not your typical Italian menu. You will not find spaghetti and meatballs, or even chicken parm. It is more creative and you might find difficulty choosing from several dishes that appeal to you. So many of the dishes sound quite appetizing.

Prior to our appetizers arriving, we were served bread with oil. There were two kinds of bread, one a softer bread and the other more crusty. They were both fresh and it was a nice start to the meal.

We began with a salad and an appetizer special. My wife had the beet salad with Capri goat cheese and balsamic. She enjoyed this very much and we both found the goat cheese to be very creamy. I had the special, foie gras with crushed white peach and Moscato d'Asti. This was a superb dish! The foie gras was like butter in my mouth and the peach went quite well with it. I received two pieces of foie gras and there was plenty of peach sauce. Highly recommended!

Off the Primi menu, we next ordered a small order of the Pappardelle with Braised Vermont Rabbit. The Primi are all pasta dishes and can be ordered in small or large sizes, dependent if you want them as an appetizer or entree. I was very torn about this section as a couple of the other Primi, such as the Fettucine with Duck and the Lobster and Pancetta Risotto sounded so good too. The Pappardelle was exquisite. There were good-sized pieces of duck in this dish, and not just thin threads of meat. The dish had some small pieces of carrot and possibly celery too. The pasta was cooked just right. This dish was quite delicious and and there was plenty of food.

Then, compliments of the Chef, we were given an order of Mussels. These are steamed P.E.I Mussels with white wine, garlic and pear tomatoes. There were a lot of mussels in the dish and they were very tender. In fact, they were some of the best mussels I have ever had.

For our entrees, my wife had the Sauteed Port Tenderloin, Spiced Cabbage, Sweet Potato Lasagna, Tomato and Sambuca. She received two good-sized tenderloins and they were certainly very tender and flavorful. The sweet potato lasagna was very intriguing, and extremely delicious. It was essentially mashed sweet potato between layers of cheese. I could have eaten a large portion of that. My entree was the Organic Chicken Schnitzel, Fried Egg, Lemon and Sage with Herbed Spaetzle. This was a large chicken breast, with only a token bone at one end, with a nicely spiced breading. The chicken was moist and flavorful. The egg was cooked so that the yolk was still gooey, which I like. The spaetzle were very tasty as well.

After all of that food, we still had a bit of room to split dessert, an orange and cardamon creme brulee with chocolate sorbetto. The creme brulee was very good and the sorbetto was excellent, a nice creamy chocolate.

Service was excellent. Our waiter was helpful with being obtrusive. We did not feel rushed and we never had to hunt for him. He was there when needed.

I should also note that throughout the meal, we saw the co-owner Jeannie Rogers working in the restaurant, whether helping with wine or setting up a table. On a holiday weekend, she was at her restaurant and not away on vacation. That surely indicates a true dedication and passion.

Prices for appetizers range $7-14, small Primi from $13-20, large Primi from $21-30, Secondi from $25-33. I think these prices are quite reasonable for the amount and quality of food you receive. This is a higher end restaurant but you definitely get what you pay for. You won't go home hungry and you will definitely enjoy the creative dishes.

Overall, I highly recommend Il Capriccio. The food is phenomenal, the wine list is superb and service is excellent. The food is reasonably priced for what you receive, the portions are good and the dishes are quite creative and exciting. Kudos to co-owner Jeannie Rogers whose passion for wine extends to her restaurant as well. Kudos also to Chef Rich Barron who has put together an excellent menu and some great food. I will definitely return there and encourage others to do the same.

Il Capriccio
888 Main St.
Waltham, MA
Phone: (781) 894-2234

Il Capriccio in Waltham

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