Banjo Harris Plane, Casey Wall, Manu Potoi and Michael Bascetta, who own Bar Liberty, are behind this Italian-American restaurant.
Chef Wall developed the unfussy and approachable menu after research trips to his home in the US. Shaved prosciutto (made in Ballarat) and pork neck gabagool (cured ham) come with house-made sourdough and spicy pickled fennel. Next, cheese pizza with pecorino, fresh and aged mozzarella. The slightly sour, fermented base has a good char, and at the pointy end what Wall calls "the New York flop"; a little droop. In September 2019, Capitano started offering takeaway pizza. They're available to order on the website.
A dish of clam chitarra (guitar string) pasta arrives with a reduction of clam broth and dashi finished with butter, parsley and lemon. It’s restrained, clever cooking that doesn’t need to be analysed or explained.
Salads are bright and acidic; young kale and wild greens are coated in an anchovy-spiked dressing, blanketed in parmesan. Sliced apple, fresh fennel and aged ricotta works well with beef, pork and fennel meatballs. To share, there’s lasagne, veal parmigiana and dry-aged steaks.
Wine – as at Bar Liberty – is a big deal. Liberty’s list is 500-strong, but Capitano’s is tighter, including a few producers who “don't muck around too much” with their wines. Around 95 per cent of the wines are made in Italy, or from Italian grapes. Whites have texture, weight and savouriness; reds are light with loads of acidity and bright fruit flavours to go with tomato-based sauces.
Onto cocktails. Where Bar Liberty is all about ease of service (most are pre-batched, but more technical), the list here revives the theatre of shaking and stirring. It reads classically (limoncello spritz, grapefruit Americano). Bitter and sour reigns, with regular hits of chamomile, saffron, orange and amaro. The grapefruit granita with Campari float doubles as a dessert.
The maroon and ivory interior is intimate. Art Deco light fixtures effuse a moody glow over wooden tables (some white-clothed, some not), bentwood chairs and banquette seating. ’70s and ’80s Italian disco comes courtesy of Sam Rogers, who spent time in Berlin as a music producer and now heads up front of house.