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Culinary Boss: Villa di Capo serves top-notch Italian food

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In Sicily, a capo is the boss of an organized crime syndicate. In music, a capo is a clamp on the head of a guitar that raises the pitch. In Albuquerque, though, “Capo” means excellent Italian food in a relaxed spot just west of Downtown.

Villa di Capo, at 722 W. Central, just south of Robinson Park, also means phenomenal red sauce, made from scratch every day, and the most garlicky Alfredo sauce in the state (probably). Both are fresh and amazingly good.

My guilty desire when I go to a new Italian restaurant is that it will serve freshly made bread, which both tastes good and is good for you (if you count only the soul and not the body). To me, fresh bread is almost required, and I will gladly pay extra to cover the cost of an angelic baker in the kitchen.

Capo serves perfectly fine garlic toast made from sub rolls, so they have the dried-hamburger-bun feel, and the salads were made earlier in the day so the lettuce at the bottom of the bowl is slightly wilted.

Mozzarella sticks come with housemade marinara sauce. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Mozzarella sticks come with housemade marinara sauce. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

Oh, and the croutons are the best in town. They’re made from scratch, perfectly seasoned, and generously spread on salads and soup. In my case, the salad dressing was sweet Italian and the soup was minestrone, a thin broth with generous meat served in a tiny cup. Because disastrously over-ordering is on brand for me, I got the mozzarella sticks, which came with homemade marinara sauce that was nicely thin and tasted like fresh tomatoes. The cheese sticks were perfectly fried and stringy, and seasoned with oregano, worth at least a couple of hours of whatever I usually do to burn off calories (which is very little).

The main course came quickly – an Italian staple, fettuccini Alfredo with chicken – and it arrived on a giant plate, easily feeding two hungry adults. I imagined that if I finished it all, my photograph might be taken and posted on a wall, but I didn’t even come close. The noodles were al dente and perfectly cooked, then drenched in a fantastic, creamy Alfredo sauce. The first taste is high-quality Parmesan, and then the garlic shows up and stays. One of the best Alfredo sauces I’ve had.

The cheese ravioli were also delicious, made from scratch and filled with fresh Italian cheeses, then smothered in Alfredo. The color was plain, but the taste was outstanding, not too cheesy but still rich and filling.

The digs are nice, too. The interior decor is a mix between Mediterranean classicism and modernism, so Roman columns compete with geometrical Art Deco light fixtures inside the historic J.A. Skinner Building. If the weather is nice, try dining on the patio, a refreshingly quaint space filled with potted plants and a working water feature. Trees provide shade and a little privacy, and the sounds of the rock waterfall will make you forget you’re in Albuquerque.

The rotating lunch menu is only $6.99 and features standards like eggplant Parmesan and lasagna. The restaurant has a full bar and several banquet areas for special occasions or large groups, as well.

Capo’s is a real boss in Albuquerque. It’s a date place, it’s a family restaurant, it’s a lunch spot, and, if the past 50 years are any indication, it’s not going anywhere.

4 stars

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