Photos by Stephen Thorburn
Capo’s On Sahara: Notoriously Good
Just off the corner of Sahara and Lindell, inside Westview Plaza, is a deceptively unassuming brown wooden building topped by a steel roof. A sign tells you it’s Capo’s; an Italian flag and prominent mug shot of Al Capone lets you know that you’re in for an “old Vegas” experience, as the takeout menu declares – through bullet holes.
There’s a vintage, two-tone Cadillac, circa 1950’s parked at what you think is the back of the venue. It’s actually the entrance and that’s where the fun starts. All patrons enter into a tiny room with a prominent red door. Ignore that and knock on an adjoining wall. A small compartment opens and the tuxedoed Maître D checks you out.
You know you’re officially in when the entire phone booth opens up to allow you access into the speakeasy-like eatery, complete with chalk outline of a body on the floor (everyone must step on this to enter or exit).
After being ushered past the long dark bar, dimly lit with multiple crystal chandeliers, an elegant piano starts up, adding to the mysterious elegance and romance of the restaurant that doubles as a comforting hideout from the modern era.
Here, bad boys and good food are equally appreciated. Walls are filled with mug shots of infamous (Lucky Luciano, John Gotti) and famous (Frank Sinatra – even he has a youthful mug shot).
The dining area features semi-circular red booths and more chandeliers, the piano and its accompanying musician and about as much light as an old-fashioned photo darkroom would allow. It’s all very intimate, very secretive, and evokes a feeling like you’re getting away with something.
If there’s a criminal element here, it’s the challenge to see how many calories you can introduce into your mouth in one sitting. A large loaf of ciabatta bread accompanies all pasta dishes bearing clever names such as Wise Guy Alfredo (Fettucine, Capo’s way) and Angels with Dirty Faces (angel hair with peas, mushrooms and pepperoni).
Your humble correspondent was lucky enough to sample three appetizers, called Temptations: The Chi-Town Scampi used jumbo shrimp, sautéed in lemon, butter, white wine and a touch or crushed red pepper. The shrimp remained tender and the tail ends were removed so you didn’t have to get your fingers involved in the usual “grip and pull.”
The Bust a Cap consisted of stuffed mushroom caps (Italian ham, black olives, roasted peppers and seasoned breadcrumbs) topped by melted cheese, which made more than one stick together. Believe me, I didn’t mind.
Joey Bananos is a spicy banana pepper stuffed with Italian sausage and covered in Capo’s own Sugo sauce (light, mild tomato), melted cheese, and served with crostini.
Then there’s the Mob’s Meatball Salad. That’s a Caesar with the addition of pasta, provolone cheese, croutons and a great big…you guessed it…meatball, Sugo covered, sitting right in the middle. This original creation works because of flavor, texture, and creativity. The meatball provided a bullseye that I couldn’t wait to hit.
The Lucky Luciano’s Salad of mixed iceberg and romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts, cheese and tomatoes was graced with the house vinaigrette and became a refreshing palate cleanser for what followed.
Chicken Parmigiana comes lightly breaded, topped with browned mozzarella cheese and Sugo sauce. The meat was tender enough to cut with a fork and you’ll hate to reach the last bite. Substitute eggplant for a similar dish, with paper thin slices of the vegetable getting similar treatment (both cooking and eating).
Dessert, a tiramisu so delicious it was almost illegal, was served in a martini glass, so I tried to take a sip, followed by a fierce spoon-led dive. The cream, the cake, the liqueur…the intoxicating creation deserved its presentation. A crisp, chocolate-covered cannoli delivered a nice crunch on the way to its delectable filling
The fully stocked bar specializes in martinis, delightful concoctions with names like Sicilian Kiss of Death, Luca Brazzi, and of course, a Bada Bing! A Sucker Punch and a Mad Dog Manhattan will also make you glad that Prohibition was repealed.
Owner Nico Santucci and Chef Doug with his cooking crew (dressed all in black) were on hand to greet customers, happy to accommodate special orders like a vegetable plate or a pasta creation for vegetarian guests. The wait staff was solicitous, gracious and extremely attentive, anticipating needs before they were uttered in many cases.
Capo’s on Sahara offers diners the haven of a dangerous but decadent bygone era, where charm and notoriety meet, mingle, and ultimately sit down to mangia. It’s a regular Mob scene. Literally.
Despite the famous paesan declaration, you won’t want to FUGGETTABOUTIT!
For further information:
5675 W. Sahara Ave.
5795 W. Tropicana Ave.
Menu & Prices: