Tony Gemignani in front of Capo’s. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The dining area (with seven tons of brick wall). Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The big booths (with the custom bench addition) and the phone booth in the back. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
The Deco-inspired, custom wood bar. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
At long last—and after a year of originally hearing the news that Tony Gemignani (of famed Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) was opening a new restaurant in the former Pulcinella space on Vallejo—he gets to open ~CAPO’S~ this Friday November 16th. Capo’s is going to be quite an anchor on Vallejo Street, with its vintage-inspired neon sign shining brightly among the vacant businesses with shuttered windows.
As soon as you walk through the elegant front doors, you’re going to feel transported to another place: think Chicago, spanning the 1920s-1950s (complete with some dark, dramatic lighting). To the left, there’s a meat slicer in the window and a long custom Deco-inspired wood bar running along the left wall; in between the bar and the dining room there’s a low dividing wall, with daily newspapers waiting on them for lunchtime customers to read. To the right are large booths and a banquette, all with tufted backs in oxblood leather. I love the additional bench seat that can be added to the coveted booths—and each booth has a round picture of famous mob bosses above it on the brick walls (made with seven tons of 100-year-old brick). While the name capo means “boss”—and you’ll find plenty of gangster memorabilia—there are also pictures of Feds counting money and other nods to Chicago culture, from baseball to beers.
The ceiling is made of pressed tin, the floors are cork, there’s a functioning 1930s-era phone booth (you can call anywhere in the U.S. for free), and the plates are classic Niagara china. The restaurant used to be the site of Adolph’s in the 1950s, and on the back wall, you’ll see it featured in a vintage oil mural on canvas of Vallejo Street. (Tony is trying to track down the original artist—he found the artwork rolled up on the site.)
Tony tells me he had the idea for the place about four years ago; he has been working on the six styles of pizza he’s serving for a while. Since deep-dish pizza takes a longer time to bake (and therefore guests stay longer at the table), he knew he needed to dedicate a restaurant just to this style of pizza. There are four traditional Chicago styles you will find: cracker-thin crust (it doesn’t have any fat in it and is served in squares), deep dish, stuffed (which is like deep dish but comes with a lid of dough and sauce on top), and cast-iron (the crust is cooked in lard). He’s using Ceresota flour (no one else can get it out here), and the sausage mix he’s doing is a combo of Chicago sausage that he has shipped here and housemade Calabrese.
Another special pizza you’ll see is the “quattro forni”—a pizza cooked in four different ovens (there are only 20 available per day)—and lastly, there will be a gluten-free option coming too. There are also Chicago classic dishes like baked mostaccioli, chicken Vesuvio, and, of course, a Chicago beef sandwich at lunch—also look for a lot of dishes being finished in the wood-burning oven, like the lasagna. Take a look at the entire menu here—and check out the custom-designed pizza box by Jeremy Fish.
The bar is primarily dedicated to whiskey, and if you order the Chicago cocktail, the vintage National register on the bar will be put to use (and you get a $1 token off your next Chicago).
Dinner is served Mon and Wed-Thu, and lunch and dinner are served Fri-Sun (you can swing by for a slice and salad at lunch, or a Vienna dog). Reservations can be made by phone only (and you might want to call for one now, because the book is filling up: 415-986-8998). A couple more things to note: there will be valet parking, but the joint is cash only. Capone would approve.