I was down in Calgary earlier in the week, which gave me the opportunity to try a new addition [about 2 months I later learned] to the booming dining scene there, Capo.
I was interested because it has been opened by Chef Giuseppe Di Gennaro whose food I had previously enjoyed at Il Sogno.
I think someone at this site said that he was opening his own place.
We sought refuge from the unseasonably warm 30-degree heat and enjoyed the cool and relaxing respite of Capo on Ninth Avenue in the Inglewood District just southeast of downtown. It is quite an attractive restaurant. Approximately thirty or so seats, bright and clean. Two sides with white/cream banquettes and the remainder tables. Big balloon-like globe lights hang from the ceiling and radiate a pleasant light blue hue.
We were early and essentially had our choice of tables [with the possible exception of Vancouvers Cru I hate banquettes and booths] so opted for a table set for four against the windows facing the kitchen. A rectangular opening has been cut into that tiled wall permitting us to watch the kitchen brigade work and observe Chef Di Gennaro taste and plate.
Our server [who turned out to have previously worked at Vancouvers Cin Cin] suggested we start with the antipasti. It arrived beautifully plated on a longer narrow white plate with two bite sized morsels each of what was described as spring salad, duck proscuitto wrapped chevre and marble sized balls of mascarpone.
The spring salad was grilled prawns topped with mandarins over matchstick sized slices of cucumber. It was given additional flavour with a citrus vinaigrette.
The duck proscuitto and chevre combined beautifully. The soft, slightly tangy chevre accented by a little smoke from the meat. It came with a little balsamic reduction sauce.
The mascarpone was crisp on the outside and melt in your mouth smooth inside. They came on top of two small puddles of sauce described as fondues made from parmesan and gorgonzola.
All were delicious and provided a perfect starter. Not very filling more like 3 amuse bouches but with lots of flavour which got our appetites going as we cooled down and enjoyed a bottle of prosecco rustico.
For appetizers my wife selected a salad of frisee and mache greens served over vin santo poached pears accompanied by a toasted pecan tuile dressed with a smoked bacon-pomegranate vinaigrette. She said it was delicious, the pears in particular.
I love squid so opted for the Venetian sweet and sour baby squid with orange, arugola and scallion salad flavoured with smoked paprika.
When it arrived I was a little disappointed. Although I love grilled and poached squid I am not a big fan of getting it deep-fried. That is true whether served in a Greek restaurant or as that wok fried spicy sauced appetizer that seems to be popular in so many places. I should have known better as it was described in the Italian portion of the menu as calamaretti.
Mind you, had I seen that I likely would not have ordered it and would as a result have missed a very good appetizer. Tiny, tender circles of squid coated with a very light batter with a delicious tangy sauce that got you at the back and top of ones mouth finishing with the dusty flavour of the paprika.
Also available as appetizers was roast pepper stuffed with crab/mascarpone cheese with a raisin/honey vinaigrette, basil salad and lobster mayonnaise and a casserole of prawns, clams, cannelloni beans in a cherry tomato coulis served with house-made can-baked bread.
Chef Di Gennaro excels with pasta. The portions are not huge but very rich and interesting.
My wife so enjoyed his pasta on other occasions she decided to forego the secondi options opting for two of the pastas.
Her first selection was ravioli pan seared in butter filled with Bolognese ragout along with mushrooms, cheese fondue and crispy fried sage. It smelled and looked great. The ravioli wrapping was brown and crisp flavoured with the browned butter and sage sauce.
Her second choice was even better. Taglierini served with a significant amount of porcini coulis, black truffle pesto, parmesan shavings and basil. The odours wafting off the mound of pasta were nothing short of intoxicating. Have to love those truffles!
I had elected to order the fish feature along with one of my favourite bottles of Italian white, Greco di Tufo from Campanias Feudi di San Gregorio [got a half bottle of decent Chianti Classico to go with my wifes pasta] so went the seafood route with my appetizer as well. I had the ricotta gnocchi with lobster Americaine sauce, white truffle oil and onion sprouts.
The gnocchi were tiny little soft pillows in a beautiful light orange coloured rich sauce that included some tender pieces of lobster meat. The only other place where I have had gnocchi as good is Brava Bistro on Calgarys hockeyless Red Mile .GO OILERS!
The other pasta option that we did not try this trip was their spaghettini tossed with a sauce of roasted red cherry tomatoes, clams and double smoked-bacon.
All of the pastas were certainly not cheap. $15.95 each with my gnocchi a dollar more but oh my, were they ever good. I think I would go back for that taglierini alone.
The fish turned out to be the only misstep of the evening. It was served with a putannesca sauce and accompanied by a side dish of snap peas. Unfortunately, the fish and vegetables suffered from being slightly overcooked. I should have advised when ordering that I wanted my halibut undercooked.
Later the chef explained that when he saw the number of pasta dishes that had been ordered he directed that the kitchen hold off on the fish. It may as a result have sat too long. Too bad, but it was still good albeit not as translucent and flaky as I prefer.
Also available as mains were roasted pheasant breast, osso buco, thyme-marinated grilled prawns and pan-seared beef tenderloin with prices ranging from $29.50 to $34.50.
After finishing our wine we had absolutely no room for dessert. Not even the selection of cheese which likely came from Janice Beatons shop in Mount Royal, which is to Calgary like Les Amis de Fromage, is to Vancouver.
All in all despite my quibble with the fish, a terrific evening.
Yes it is expensive and you probably could not do it at least not us on a regular basis but we certainly will be back. Mind you, one does not have to eat nor drink as much as we did this time. I would go back for the pastas alone.
The ambiance is lovely. Service was friendly and unobtrusive. The wine list is not full of intimidating trophy wines and resultant prices. It is well selected, costed out relatively reasonably with the wines served in beautiful stemware. The food and service are not intimidating.
As the evening progressed the clientele increased. Customers of all ages. People dressed for a night out, others more comfortable and casual.
Capo is definitely a good option if visiting Calgary.