RISTORANTE LA CAPANNINA
Some restaurants seem to sum up all that is best about the place they inhabit. Thus it is with La Capannina and Capri. Relaxed, welcoming and warm-hearted, this establishment embodies the charm of its location. Indeed, whenever I think of La Capannina, the pleasures I have enjoyed on the magical island over the years come to mind. And I smile. Is not smiling the best tribute one can pay to any establishent? In my photograph you will observe that both I and the owner of La Capannina, Mr Antonio De Angelis, are doing precisely that.
I find it impossible to resist Capri. I even like the bustle and the noise of the day-trippers who travel from Sorrento and pack the Marina Grande and Capri town until the last ferry leaves in the early evening. But, of course, I like it even better when the crowds have gone and the elegant little streets are left to the residents and to those of us who are staying in the hotels. Then there is the particular pleasure of walking past the jewellers’ shops and the clothing boutiques on the way to a really good dinner. And I know how to make sure that is what awaits me. Indeed, anyone who knows Capri well will direct you to the famous dining room near the town’s main square. Everyone has been there - including Jacqueline Onassis, Dustin Hoffman and Jose Carreras. Yet it has the appearance of being a hidden gem.
La Capannina means ‘the little house’, so that is what to look for in the maze of pretty alleys which runs from the Piazzetta. What you will find is a small door by a window. Inside you will see that the tables have been carefully set with pink tablecloths and Bormioli glasses, and that the waiters in bow ties are ready for the evening’s customers. The appearance is that of a very good and thoroughly traditional Italian restaurant – which is as well, because that is precisely what La Capannina is.
The greeting on this visit was as it always is, courteous and proper, for Mr De Angelis is a real gentleman. He and his wife, Aurelia, and their son and daughter, Francesco and Renata, know how to run a happy, family establishment. I settled myself comfortably on the banquette at a corner table, and knew I was in for a good evening.
Antonio De Agelis’s father, Francesco, became the chef at the Quisisana Hotel [see separate article] in 1931. Two years later, he opened a trattoria – Savoia – near the Piazzetta, which soon started to enjoy the patronage of the writers who were beginning to flock to Capri – people like Graham Greene. In 1951 the business moved to the present location, and ten years thereafter Antonio and his wife took over.
But you will know when you look at the wine list that this was no run-of-the-mill trattoria. Its pages contain some very grand bottles, with prices running from 20€ for a Sicilian white to 3,000€ for Mr Gaja’s 1997 Costa Russi. Most of the wines are from Italy, and the famous names are there to tempt us - Tignanello, Solaia, Sassicaia and Masseto. I quaffed a 2016 Rosso di Montepulciano with an appealing nose of black fruit (Poliziano).
The food is exactly what you want in this environment: straightforward, based on good ingredients and full of true flavours. There is, of course, lots for the fish-lovers, but we carnivores are also well served. I began with asparagus with butter and parmesan, a dish particularly pleasing – for I adore asparagus. Then it was first class pasta. This Tagliolini Carbonara was precisely the sort of dish about which people – quite properly – rave. The pasta itself was beautifully soft and the classic combination of cheese, egg and pancetta was exactly as it should have been. My main course was even better: superb, juicy fillet of beef with lovely sweet peppers. There is something just so satisfying about food as triumphantly traditional as this – when it is well done. I concluded with a dish of superb wild strawberries. (Allow around 75€ for four courses.)
La Capannina is the sort of restaurant in which it is virtually impossible not to have a good time. Dinner here makes a lovely ending to a joyful day on this beautiful island. The restaurant and its location are in perfect harmony.