Capri: Great, traditional Italian food 

Capri's marinara-slathered Veal Ossobuco. - MARK LEE
  • Capri's marinara-slathered Veal Ossobuco.
  • Mark Lee

It’s been a decade since I reviewed Capri and much has changed in the Indianapolis culinary scene. Cutting-edge restaurants have come and gone, including the sadly short-lived Tavola di Tosa, which pushed Italian cuisine to challenging heights. Capri represents one link in the small restaurant chain owned by Arturo di Rosa, whose restaurants have always been, if nothing else, supremely competent, deeply immersed in traditional Italian cooking and solidly old-World in terms of décor, style, service and food. That’s one thing that’s remained constant in the last 10 years.

To be honest, I’m struggling a bit as I write this. Our food at a recent visit was excellent, everything you would expect from someone focusing on the Italy of old — homemade pasta, perfect sauces, fresh ingredients. But I just wish the envelope would be pushed. While Spanish, French and modern American cooking has taken giant strides over the last few years, I feel that, outside of restaurants like Spiaggia in Chicago, Italian cooking has remained mired in, if not exactly post-war Chef Boyardee territory, then at least the 70’s. That’s not to say that the food at Capri isn’t thoroughly accomplished and perfectly executed, it’s just that it’s not particularly challenging.

Elegantly appointed, Capri offers an atmosphere of cool restraint with a slightly aloof style of service which befits the traditional setting and menu. I would have enjoyed a little bit more information about the dishes rather than the simple facts of their ingredients, which I could read for myself on the menu. I definitely got the impression that the servers, despite being professional, are somewhat blasé and bored.

Three of us shared a number of dishes from the expansive menu. Each was very competently presented and prepared. Outstanding was my wife’s choice of Tortelloni alla Papalina ($16.95), easily the best dish of the night, offering huge, fat, perfectly al dente parcels of pasta stuffed with ricotta and dressed with intensely flavored crimini mushrooms and a cream sauce made of the same. The flavor was focused and the texture of the pasta perfectly judged. I could have eaten this all night. As an appetizer, we shared a delicious Insalata di Mare ($16.95), lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon. The shrimp, scallops and calamari were delightfully fresh and crisp, as were the greens.

My main course of Veal Ossobuco ($33) was perfectly prepared, but I’m not sure if I really agree with the tomato sauce in which it was slathered, a sauce shared by the otherwise-excellent Eggplant Parmesan starter. Something a little more subtle on the veal might have fared better and preserved the delicate flavor of the dish.

For dessert, the house-made Tiramisu ($6.50) was outstanding and ethereally light. Bravo to that. If you’re looking for great, traditional Italian food, then look no further than Capri. It would be hard to do much better.

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