A passer-by out for a casual stroll around Main Street might find themselves wondering why Sag Harbor suddenly reminds them of a quaint village in Europe. Could it be the comforting aroma of garlic and fresh basil that fills the air? Decidedly yes!
Il Capuccino is a classic Italian restaurant that has been located on Madison Street for over 35 years. The secret to success? Owner Jack Tagliasacchi who has kept many of his traditional delectable dishes on the menu since the inception of the current business, which was established in 1973. He has consistently been able to maintain faithful clientele with his reliable, traditional cuisine. The garlic knots alone have been enough to make generations of locals feel like they are coming home every time they step through the restaurant’s front door.
And it’s not only the regulars who love Il Capuccino, which lies just beyond where Main and Madison streets split in Sag Harbor. With its welcoming lace curtains, checkered tablecloths, Chianti bottles and candlelight, many a newcomer can’t resist stopping in for a taste of the old country either.
Jack Tagliasacchi started his apprenticeship in Parma, Italy, a northern part of the country where, he explained, the food incorporates a lot of influence from French cuisine. After traveling up and down the coast of Europe, learning techniques from a variety of teachers from Switzerland, France and Italy, Tagliasacchi crossed the Atlantic to Argentina and opened a restaurant there at the age of 22.
After running the restaurant in South America for nearly four years, in 1958, Tagliasacchi decided to give the United States a try and first landed in Miami where he opened a restaurant and utilizing his skills and expertise, created a successful establishment there.
Five years later, Tagliasacchi finally found a place that worked for him – and that place was right here on the East End. He began his New York career at Baron’s Cove Inn in 1963, and later, he purchased the establishment. While Tagliasacchi worked on his hand-made pasta and tried to drum up business for Baron’s Cove, the he also purchased a restaurant renowned for its cappuccino and Italian cuisine – that is Sag Harbor’s Il Capuccino.
Â “I trained all my personnel,” the Tagliasacchi noted. “[Chef] Jim Renner has been with the business for probably over 25 years.”Â
Tagliasacchi said most of his dishes have been on the menu for at least that long as well, and many of them much longer — including the tortelli d’erbetta, which, according to the owner, is a very popular dish. This is a spinach and ricotta cheese filled tortelli, which is served with fresh butter and parmesan cheese.
“We started with a simple menu,” said Tagliasacchi remembering when the restaurant was first created, “then we expanded [the menu] through the years.”
Some of the recipes for his dishes, he notes, have not changed at all. But Tagliasacchi does offer specialties to encourage his customers to keep coming back for more of the same, modifications, or simply dishes that may be seasonal.
“In the fall, we offer pumpkin ravioli, which is a specialty of Parma,” he says.
Others specials, which rotate, include items like veal tollatini with prosciutto, fontina cheese and herbs or ossobuco Milanese served with polenta. The restaurant even offers rack of lamb, swordfish, striped bass and catfish on occasion.Â
“We also specialize in seafood,” said the owner. “There are so many parts of Italy that are near the water, and Sag Harbor is too, so we offer these specials for those who want fresh fish.”
Tagliasacchi also reported that on Sundays, he offers a $21.95 prix fix, which includes a soup, salad or appetizer, a main course, dessert and a choice of coffee or tea.
Those seeking a visit to Italy without the cost of airfare have come to know that in Sag Harbor, with it’s combination of food and atmosphere, Il Capuccino is the next best thing.
Â “This is a family-type dÃ©cor, which is warm and authentic,” said the owner. “But we wanted to offer a lot of specialties to the public at an affordable price,” he said.
The restaurant is open year round, seven days a week — but, like many restaurants in Italy, will be closed on Easter Sunday.
Il Capuccino, 30 Madison Street Sag Harbor, New York 11963 631.725.2747 www.ilcapuccino.com
Above (l to r): James Renner, Amber Tagliasacchi, Jack Tagliasacchi, Lynn Falkowski and Andrew Miller enjoying dinner at Il Cap