(Strumming a few notes on a chitarra severino)
I will tell you a story of a trattoria that was, and our sadness. Once upon a time Caffe Capri sat humbly on Hyperion, and we ate there often, making friends with Nunzia (the owners' daughter) and generally loving everything Maria Ulloa-Severino decided to make.
They then moved. The Hyperion location has since become a still-hot Silverlake joint*. Despite the words "Caffe Capri" still scripted on one wall, there is an abundance of the beret-and-sport-coat foodie crowd. The basic pastas are well-wrought, but we found the squid ink pasta intensely squidy, with the unfortunate subtlety of paint. The young staff is friendly, but not family.
We resolved to track down our long-lost sister. Having traded ghostly brick for small-town quaintness, she now stands in Monrovia as Bella Sera, still hosted by the charming Rosario. It is bigger, more established and formal, but still homelike, and we hope the affluent-looking customers who gather there appreciate its presence.
Before your meal appears there is hot bread with olive oil, and an astoundingly fresh pile of chopped tomato, garlic and basil on toasted bruschetta slices. The caprese salad is brisk and honest, with strips of aromatic basil.
The courses are as gratifying as we remember, and we recommend getting whatever specialty they are offering that evening. The Gnocchi alla Sorentina is soft and pillowy, with a glowing tomato sauce and sheets of mozzarella melting atop. The Fettuccine Bolognese is a mountain of pasta thoroughly mixed with a brilliant meat sauce, authoritative with tomato. The Pollo Marsala is still a favorite of ours.
The wine list is fairly extensive; we like to get a chianti classico or a Sicilian nero d'avila.
We are always nearly uncomfortable with fullness when finished, but the desserts are alluring. I don't usually go with the tiramisu since it's a little too sneeze-inducing with the cocoa powder, but the Zuccotto is a dense cakelike wedge of chocolate, vanilla and espresso bean with roasted almonds that makes you close your eyes and nod after each bite. The Limoncello Parfait Flute is lemon gelato swirled with limoncello, fairly ablaze on the tongue.
It takes a little while for us to get there, but we're happy we found them again.
* On 7:30 on a Wednesday night we were asked if we had a reservation; we said no, and much hemming and hawing ensued despite there being open tables that never filled. We were tucked behind a tree by the wall. To their credit, they checked on us often and were very pleasant, but had to wade through a fairly blustery cloud of trim beards and scarves and hold-on-that's-me, hello? vibe that is not Silverlake-specific.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Northeast/Arcadia/Monrovia )