Evening dinner review
It was a sad day when we heard Tipica had closed. Tipica was the coming together of locally renowned Chef Adam Kreisel and the might of Caputo’s Market and Deli. A match made in heaven no? Well, not for many Salt Lake City diners it would seem. Tipica’s concept was the fusing of local products with the ‘nose to tail’ approach to ingredients, capitalizing on oft neglected cuts of meat, including offal.
Tipica wasn’t completely ‘out there’ like Fergus Henderson’s famous St John, but the menu still pushed enough boundaries that it failed to win over the hearts and minds of many of Salt Lake City’s less adventurous diners. At least that’s what I take as the lesson of the Tipica project. At any rate, Tipica is no more and in it’s place comes Caputo’s By Night.
Caputo’s By Night is a completely different concept altogether. It focuses more on classic, recognizable Italian dishes, much simpler fare and a more casual atmosphere. Summed up in the simplest fashion, one would say it is a natural extension of Caputo’s (rightly) famous daytime deli into an evening restaurant.
While the menus couldn’t be more different, the space of Caputo’s By Night looks largely the same as it did in the Tipica days. The deli space is shrouded by billowing drapes, tables are topped with white tablecloths and out comes the nice stemware and cutlery. Thus, the deli space is transformed into a much more traditional restaurant. What is untraditional, is the front of the space being open to a small outdoor dining area and overlooking the park on warmer evenings, as the building’s frontage features huge roll up window/doors. I really liked this setup during the Tipica days, I am glad it’s been retained for Caputo’s By Night.
After being seated by the friendly hostess, we were glad to see prices proved to be very reasonable. We first noted this while perusing the beer/wine menu, with no bottle of wine over $36 from what I could see and beers and wines by the glass which also seemed to feature some good deals. More importantly, the low prices were also evident on the food menu, a pleasant surprise considering Caputo’s has access to some of the finest ingredients available.
The menu is fairly simple, pick an entree, pick a type of pasta to go with that (arrabiatta, cacciatore, vongole, ravioli, lasagna, Italian sausage) and finally pick your choice of soup or salad. If you like you can also just order a pasta dish. Finally, the daytime’s deli sandwiches are offered too, as are a small handful of appetizers.
Bread, oil and vinegar arrived gratis, while we debated what to pick from the menu:
The menu featured just four appetizers, which really aren’t the focus here, but the Branzino Affumicato ($5.95) caught our attention nonetheless:
Smoked sea bass, topped with capers and caper berries. I’m a sucker for pretty much anything smoked, so this dish reeled me in. And mighty fine it was too with the fish’s smoky saltiness enhanced and brightened by the capers and juice from the lemons on which it was presented, yum.
Italian Wedding soup was the soup of the evening, and given the summer weather now upon us, didn’t seem quite fitting. Instead we both went with salads with our entrees. One standard salad (pictured below) with balsamic dressing and one caesar salad. Both were pleasingly fresh and full of crunch and flavour. As you can see from the photo below, they didn’t hold back on the croutons, which seemed to be house made from the excellent bread and olive oil on hand.
Salad and Lasagna ($11.95):
Wendi selected the lasagne, which was listed as having an Italian sausage meat sauce. She was impressed by the cheeses and pasta in the dish, but found the sauce just a little on the bland side. She said she was expecting something just a tad spicier. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the dish and enjoyed it again reheated as a midnight snack later that night.
I went with the Manzo Alla Pizzaiola with Penne Arrabiatta ($15.95):
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the menu description, but was plenty pleased by what arrived; a big plate of meat! I should probably be a little more descriptive than that. In detail, it was thinly shaved beef with a Pizzaiola sauce (tomato, garlic, oregano). It reminded me of a deli cold cut meat, cooked with a simple sauce. I would imagine it would not be too everyone’s taste, but, meat lover that I am, I enjoyed every bite.
The penne arrabiata on the side was very good as well. The pasta was cooked correctly, which might sound like a small thing, but is surprisingly overlooked, at least in my dining experiences. The sauce was simple, but had a good kick of heat. I just couldn’t make my way through the whole plate, such was the abundance of shaved beef, which of course, I was obligated to finish every last bite of. At this stage I figured out why there were only four appetizers on the menu. The entrees and complimentary bread are more than substantial enough to feed even a hearty appetite.
Wendi knew she wanted dessert, and she was hoping the Chocolatier Blue we had sampled previously at Caputo’s were available, because frankly, a few bites of perfect chocolate were all we had room for. We were in luck and ordered three selections from the line’s new collection ($2 each):
I won’t go into great detail about the chocolates, since they weren’t prepared at the restaurant, but will say that they must be tried to be believed. If memory serves, Caputo’s deli is one of only a few select outlets outside of the Berkeley, California headquarters where Chocolatier Blue’s little delicacies can be purchased. They are another sign of the vast array of exceptional ingredients and products a restaurant attached to a deli like Caputo’s has on hand. With such a pantry of goods right next door, one should expect great things. And a great evening is what we both enjoyed.
I remember Matt Caputo making the following comment on the restaurant’s opening: “Customers can get a hearty and comforting meal and a drink for under $15 and rarely over $20.″ After our experience I couldn’t agree more. With their complementary bread, salad or soup with every entree, and the entree portion sizes themselves, Caputo’s By Night delivers completely on that promise.
Cutting edge it might not be, but affordable, comforting and enjoyable it is. Some might bemoan the loss of Tipica, but the almost full restaurant space of obviously happy and content diners on our visit suggests this newer Caputo venture will be here for some time.
Caputo’s By Night
314 West 300 South, Salt Lake City, 84101