I'm a NYC food lover whose girlfriend moved to Waltham earlier this year. I've spent a great deal of time in Boston over the last few years, and have eaten at some, but not nearly all, of the city's restaurants. I would describe the Boston restaurant scene as "relentless mediocrity". In NYC, I've eaten at, lord, pretty much everywhere. I'd describe the NYC as "relentless mediocrity, punctuated by the occaisional moment of competance". What can I say, I'm a picky eater, and whatever a restaurant throws at me, I've probably seen it 3 times before.
Which is why, despite rarely posting on Chowhound, I feel compelled to post this review today.
Il Capriccio, in Waltham, is fantastic.
I'm not going to lie, in the 9 months or so since my girlfriend moved to Waltham, we've become regulars. We at a table by the bar, where they allow casual dress and walk-ins.
The food is consistently excellent and well prepared. When the chicken has been sauteed, the skin comes out...wait for it, wait for it.....CRISPY. Considering that the fine art of "sautee" appears to have skipped this generation of American chefs, its a pleasure to have meat that's crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. It's remarkable how good a simple thing can taste when prepared correctly. No fancy locally sourced produce, no exotic preparation. Just people in the kitchen who know what the heck they're doing.
The pork chop, when on the menu, is a similar pleasure. Thick, juicy. Never overdone. You'd think that any restaurant could do this, but honestly, how often is pork chop cooked to a correct level of doneness at a restaurant? One of out three? Il Capriccio nails it every time.
Pasta isn't Il Capriccio's "thing", but they are still reliably excellent, and very reasonably priced. A dish on the menu this past August and September, with corn, local tomatoes, and lobster (what a New Englandy dish!) remains the most delicious thing I've had at a restaurant in the past 12 months. And it was $30 for a entree portion, reasonably priced considering the ample portion of lobster meat. The meat ragouts are intensely flavorful, as a restaurant's ragu's should be (if only I had access to that kind of stock and demi-glace at home...).
The wine list is excellent. Deep and obscure for Italian wines, and not extortionate. Mature, older wines are sometimes offered by the glass. I haven't heard of some of the wines I've had there, and that's saying something. A couple of months back, I had a 1999 white that blew my socks off....how often do you get to have a good white with bottle age by the glass in a restaurant?
Is the restaurant perfect? No. A few months back, I had a lobster and scallop lasagna that was greasy and limp. Too often, the reds available by the glass are too similar to each other to really provide a choice (2 sangiovese-based reds out of the 4 generally available by the glass? This violates the little-known 11th Commandment:Thou Shalt Not Have a Vino Nobile and a Chianti on Thy Same Wines By Glass List).
But its consistently very very good, fairly priced for the quality, and, most importantly, the dishes aren't just aping whatever is "hot". Its a restaurant whose food and wine is individual and delicious. I think of a cake I had there a few weeks back. I forget what it was supposed to be, but all I remember is this dense, intensely vanilla-y cake. It tasted like something my mother would bake. My mother is a hell of a baker.
I wish there were more Italian restaurants in NYC like Il Capriccio.