Pizza is a personal preference and there are many that would claim that Chicago deep dish pizzas shouldn’t be classified as a pizza. We beg to differ and are eager eaters of all types of pizzas, from thin Napolitana-style to the deep dish Chicago-style pies. Little Star is a great place for deep dish pies, but when we heard that pizzaiolo extraordinaire Tony Gemignani opened Capo’s, a Chicago-style eatery in North Beach with pizzas and Italian food, we had to go.
Gemignani already has a few other pizza-centric restaurants in his empire, with a couple of them located in the heart of San Francisco’s Little Italy: Tony’s Pizza Napoletana focusing on Southern Italian style eats, and next door takeout joint Tony’s Coal Fired Pizza and Slice House offering New York and Roman style pizzas (along with Chicago beef and New York deli sandwiches). Capo’s, located a few of blocks away from the other 2 places, is purely Windy City in nature: from the speakeasy atmosphere with a nod to mafioso to almost every item on the menu, which includes huge portions of pasta and cracker, deep dish and stuffed pizzas. As a big fan of double-decker pies from Bill’s Pizza and Pub in Mundelein, Illinois, the Bay Area has been a disappointment with regards to stuffed pizzas. Until now that is.
Without a reservation, there was only a 20 minute wait for a table. We nudged our way to the bar and ordered a Vieux Carre derivative Made Man (Cyrus Noble Gin, Remy VSOP Cognac, Antica Carpano Vermouth, Benedictine) and a disappointingly advertised Silencer (Antica Carpano ice cubes, Campari, Seltzer Soda, Brandy Crystals). We wondered if the Silencer was supposed to have a comma between the Antica Carpano and ice cubes since it was just regular ice cubes, but Google tells us that it indeed should have been vermouth-laced ice cubes. The barrel-aged Made Man was excellent, but the Silencer pretty much tasted like Campari and Soda — the brandy crystals were quite tasty, but there was hardly enough of it to change the flavor profile:
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When we were finally seated, the server offered a choice of house-filtered still or sparkling water. Even before we had a chance to peruse the menu and order, she brought out complimentary bowls of pasta fagioli soup. It is a very nice touch, and the soup made with Parmesan rind brodo was delicious, but we wouldn’t consider this a typical pasta fagioli. It did have some cannellini beans and pasta wheels, but this version wasn’t hearty and thick:
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We ordered a Southern Italian Nero D’Avola which was not inky at all to pair with the rest of our meal:
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This is Part 1 of the Outfit “Antipasti Platter” which included various salumi and assorted cheeses (Parmesan, Apricot Stilton and Housemade Mozzarella). To break up the richness, house-pickled spicy cherry peppers and olives were served with this generous platter:
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Part 2 of the Antipasti Platter included a wooden paddle piled with a generous amount of Prosciutto:
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Lore has it that Bill’s double-decker pizza precedes the advent of Chicago stuffed pizzas. Both types feature a double crust, where Bill’s double-decker stacks cheese and vegetables on the top crust with meat and tomatoes on the lower crust. Most stuffed pizzas separate the tomato sauce on the top crust with cheese and all toppings between the crusts.
We ordered Capo’s Old Chicago, which is made with mozzarella, provolone, Italian sausage, house-made meatball and garlic between the crusts, while the tomato sauce, ricotta and oregano were baked on the top crust. We also asked them to add Chicago sport peppers which provided the right amount of spice to the pie. The perfectly braided crust edges were filled with plenty of garlic and herbs which made it so tasty that no crust was left behind:
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All pizzas are available in one size only: extra-large. Even with pacing ourselves through the antipasti course, one pizza between two people was excessive. Sliced into 6 pieces, we were able to eat only 1 slice each. Lest anyone think we can’t pull our weight, we took the remaining 4 slices home and weighed it. The box weighed 4.5 pounds (~2 Kilos) which meant that each slice was more than 1 pound. The important thing is that leftovers were equally excellent:
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Capo’s evokes the era of early Prohibition Italian-American Chicago, reflected by brick-laden walls, a long wooden bar, pictures of mafia men like Al Capone and rich red tufted banquettes. Notice the phone booth in the back, calls to anywhere in the US can be made for free from there:
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There is a full menu available with items other than pizza including salads, appetizers (sausages and meatballs) and pasta. The portions at Capo’s are midwestern-sized, in other words: huge. We noticed that the pasta courses delivered to other tables are at least double the size of other Italian restaurants in the City. It’s impossible to eat a multi-course meal without expecting to take home leftovers. Just like during the Prohibition-era, credit cards are not accepted, so plan on bringing cash to settle the bill, or you might be sleeping with the fishes (there is an ATM located conveniently on site).