n a rainy weekday evening, Capocaccia Trattoria is packed wall-to-wall with regulars by 7:30 p.m.
Salvatore Mele was only 28-years-old when he opened the neighbourhood Italian restaurant on Yonge just north of Summerhill. Now at 40, he's opening another Italian spot (200-seat Oretta later this year) and celebrating twelve years as one of the few longstanding restaurants in the upscale St. Clair neighbourhood.
Mele credits a few things for part of their success: "Using proper ingredients – Italian flours, Burrata and San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy," alongside local ingredients when available.
Another reason for their popularity? “"Genuine hospitality. That's what our competitive edge is here, saying hello and greeting guests," Mele says. "My dad told me 'Love what you do,' and the business will be successful."
The menu, under the direction of Chef Andrea Bolis from Milano in Northern Italy, is creative, but sticks to the country’s authentic culinary roots and traditions. Not specific to one region – instead, focusing on predominantly central dishes - plates offer "a little bit of everything."
Pastas are a big feature, with many fresh and stuffed varieties made in house. Pizzas are also popular. The ten selections are "more Roman style than Neapolitan," Mele says. Other dishes of note include mains of Angello Scottadito ($33) grilled New Zealand lamb chops, Branzino ($26) Mediterranean sea bass, and housemade desserts.
The wine list features only Italian selections (as seen on the the multi-story wine rack), and the new cocktail menu includes a Barrel Aged Negroni ($12) with Tanqueray Gin, Campari, Dubonnet rouge, amd Averna Amaro steeped in a barrel for three weeks.
The restaurant seats 90 including 14 at bar, with room for 26 on the covered patio. The space is divided into the front area with long bar seating, and dining room on the right. The latter features tables set close together that immediately creates an intimate, atmosphere. The "European dining" style of tight spaces was done on purpose. Mele says, "Food is what brings people together," and notes that regulars love the closeness.
Mele designed the space himself with inspiration from his wife, Giuseppina. "It's more contemporary – not modern and not totally rustic," he says. White and gray covered walls are finished with high ceilings. Sapphire blue seating set against deep-grained wood tables, underneath aqua-accented chandeliers, offers a modern, seaside feel.
Mele does a small renovation every year, with a larger scale project completed just three years ago.
The long-standing restaurant has "a hip vibe" according to Mele. "There’s a younger demographic now in the area, with lots of young families, lots of young energy."
Capocaccia Trattoria's longevity continues with the younger generation. Just a table away, a toddler bites into chewy pizza and ricotta-stuffed pasta.
Capocaccia Trattoria is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, and offers dine in, take out and delivery.
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