Saturday, December 4, 2010

Monte Vista Landmark in Decline? Capparelli's on Main

I think I moved to this part of San Antonio just a year or two before Capparelli's On Main opened, and have been something of a regular there for its entire existence. While it has never been my favourite Italian restaurant in town, it's always been my favourite local Italian; and despite the advent of Ciao Lavanderia, Stefania's Country Italian, and (briefly) Valentino's, it still is. 

But something has changed in the last year or so, and not for the better. 

The reasonable prices, a good wine list, excellent service and very pleasant atmosphere, both inside and out, continue to make it a favoured dining destination for me and, I reckon, just about everybody else between downtown and Olmos Basin. None of that has changed. What has changed is the food. It has lately lost its sharp edge of quality. It's still good, it's just not that good anymore. 

The last few times I've gotten the lasagna, there's been something different about the seasoning of the sauce. Something in the kitchen has changed in the way that dish is prepared. The lasagna at Capparelli's was always my favourite lasagna anywhere, including my own house, and the change, whatever it was, was starkly noticeable. The current version, while still pretty good, can't command the kind of determined loyalty the dish once did.

Last night at Capparelli's On Main, I got the salmon salad. (My wife got the lasagna, so I got to taste it, and yes, it's not what it used to be.) Our attentive waitress brought our wine choices and a basket of garlic bread. They used to have excellent garlic bread, always freshly made. The basket we had last night was decidedly not freshly made, plus the bread itself is different from what it used to be at this restaurant. It's not as good. When our entrées arrived (in good time -- not rushed, not delayed), I was just a little disappointed by the salmon. It had excellent texture and the outer coating was very nicely constituted, but I think it was just the slightest bit overcooked. Not enough for me to send it back, just not as perfect as it could have been. Fortunately, the salad itself was delicious, although this kitchen, like every other in town these days, I believe, has forgotten the ancient and sensible maxim that NOTHING IN A SALAD SHOULD BE LARGER THAN A LADY'S MOUTH, DEMURELY OPENED. We men don't like having huge lettuce leaves to cut or fold, either.

In the past year I've had lasagna and other pasta dishes at Capparelli's On Main, as well as sandwiches and pizza. Everything has been good -- their pizza is almost as good, albeit in a different way, as my favourites in that category; but I'm afraid that things are changing for them, and if that trend continues, I might just have to start going elsewhere more often.

I'd rather not.
Capparelli's on Main on Urbanspoon


  1. I agree, the food's not as good here as it used to be. But they still make a good pizza, and I really like the kind of live music they have on Friday nights.

  2. It would appear that Caparelli's was just going through a slump when I wrote this review. I've continued to go occasionally (it is, after all, in the neighbourhood, so to speak), but not as often as I used to.

    The last couple of times, though, the issues I had with the place back when this review was written seem to have all improved. The quality of the food has climbed steadily back up to at least a 4-chili-pepper rating, and most importantly the red sauce for the lasagna seems to almost be back to the fantastic recipe they used to use. Seasoning's not quite there, but very, very close. And the service is still great, and the atmosphere, especially when there's live music. (Unlike many places, the live music here is done quietly enough that those who don't want to pay attention to it don't have to.) And the prices haven't gone up noticeably in the intervening months, so I would probably add another half a chili-pepper to the value rating.

    Someday soon, I'll do a complete update on the review, and then we'll see what I think when I'm really paying attention.


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