Downtown Lunch: Capri Caffe
Midtown workers shouldn’t have all the fun, so to even the score, I’ve brought on Daniel Krieger as an official Downtown Lunch Correspondent to write up some of the tasty stuff you can get in the lower half of Manhattan. He’s a great photographer (insuring good food porn), but more importantly he is a lover of cheap, unique and delicious eats (or as I like to call it- Midtown Lunch’ish food.)
Capri Caffe is a real “Midtown Lunch” Downtown gem of a spot (does that even make sense?) located on 165 Church street between Chambers and Reade. It was recommended by a random guy I met early this week who lives in the area and swears by it. He eats there “once, sometimes twice a day.” Not sure if he was exaggerating a bit but I had to check this place out.
When I first walked in I got the immediate feeling the dishes were going to be a bit too pricey to fall within the rigorous Midtown Lunch guidelines. Luckily everything seemed to fall under the $10 price cap, like the oh so attractive to me manicotti, which was $8.50. Toss in the fact that the pasta for that particular dish was made fresh in-house and I was pretty stoked. I may have even exclaimed “Mama Mia!” but if questioned I’ll deny it. (It just doesn’t sound that authentic coming out of my New York Jew mouth.) The owners who seem just as authentic as the food will greet you with smiles, wearing their Italian bicycle hats with the fronts turned up. If you ask what’s the best thing to order, you’ll get a confident albeit not surprising “everything is good!”
While usually that’s a line of BS, multiple visits gave truth to the adage. I was particularly impressed with the $9.50 Linguine al Limone (made with shrimp and “my mom special lemon sauce”) while my lunch partner had the $7.50 Tagliatelle alle noci- a flat noodle dish with anchovies, grated cheese, and walnuts (you may say the secret ingredient is way too much olive oil). The dried pastas were strong as well, but you’ve got to like your pasta al dente to truly be down (they were a bit too hard for my liking.) Looking for something on the cooler side, they’ve got a list of of mozzarella salads and cold dishes that looked amazing.
But for me, the standout dish was easily the fresh pasta manicotti. It arrived at my table piping hot, filled with ricotta and fontina cheese and “erbs baked in tomato sauce” (which I think means herbs?) It was expertly made and quickly devoured. That same dish at most restaurants in the city would usually be almost double the amount.
So overall Capri Caffe gets a downtown thumbs ups. The seating is limited (especially during the lunch rush) and ambiance is not the name of the game here (you order at the counter, and they bring the food out to your table, if you’re lucky enough to get a seat.) But if you’re looking for a place to eat some great pasta, while surrounded by Michelangelo prints and melted candles-in-wine bottles then this will be your new favorite place. If you go, try the manicotti. If you don’t like it I’ll Zach will pay you back for it. (Editor’s Note: Nobody is paying anybody back for anything. Eat this shit at your own risk. -zach)
Capri Caffe, 165 Church St. (btw. Chambers & Reade), 212-513-1358
Photos and post by Daniel Krieger