Friday, January 8, 2010

Memories of Marsala at Capri

From age ten to fourteen, the highlight of my week was the Friday night trip to Capri Restaurant in Desert Hot Springs with my parents and my sister. John and Mindy, the hosts whose parents owned and ran the restaurant, would always seat us at our favorite table in the plain and completely homestyle, non-pretentious place, and bring us the long narrow glass of skinny breadsticks and warm basket of butter-saturated garlic bread. My stepfather, who perpetually encouraged a sophisticated palate in us desert rat kids, introduced us to the veal marsala entree one day after realizing that all we ever ordered was the ravioli with the big fat meatball, and my sister and I completely fell in love. Tender slices of veal that could be cut with a fork drenched in a sweet marsala wine sauce and dotted with thick, plump and juicy mushrooms...and the best part, soaking up all the extra sauce with that insanely-garlic-saturated bread at the end of the dish. Our second favorite thing was the cappucinno ice cream, which was black and dotted with chewy pieces of dark chocolate covered espresso beans. This was our weekly Friday meal for years. The fact that Capri was located in a city known more for its crime and sordid history than fine culinary arts made the restaurant even better: those all over the Coachella Valley who knew about it, considered it their cherished little secret.

Over twenty years later, my friend and client Chef Aaron, discovered Capri and called to rave enthusiastically about it to me. Osso Buco! Grey Goose Martinis! He could hardly contain his excitement and proceeded to visit the place three times in a few weeks. We decided to have our monthly business dinner there and this past week I stepped foot into the small, non-descript, hole in the wall restaurant once again after years of being away. Nothing had changed, and the people were even the same. I reminisced with John a bit, who hasn't aged, probably a side effect of delivering nightly doses of Italian-style hospitality to lifelong patrons, and was pleasantly surprised to note that the veal marsala hadn't changed either.
You know a restaurant is good when chefs want to eat there and when you see the same faces at the tables twenty years later.


  1. Veal Marsala is one of my favorite Italian meals EVER! I was in Palm Desert on Monday to visit a friend and the weather was so beautiful I came home and told hubby we need to make reservations stat for my bday in April. We will definitely hit this place up! Thanks!

  2. I want to go next time!! I have been meaning to try it for a few years now!