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Café Capitano: Little Italy is back on Hertel

At this moment I’m sitting inside one of the quaintest Italian cafés. It’s called Café Capitano and so far all I can tell you is that the coffee is really good, the service is on the ball, and the atmosphere is extremely comfortable. One look at the menu shows a variety of selections ranging from a chicken Caesar salad to the Super Assorted (salami, ham and cappicola, lettuce, tomato, and cheese). The waitress behind the counter has suggested that I try the stuffed hot peppers or the breaded chicken cutlet special. Last week I received the following email from a Buffalo Rising reader that sounded mighty enticing:

“I believe it is North Buffalo’s best kept little secret. It’s called Café Capitano and it’s on Hertel Ave near Lombardo’s. They serve breakfast and lunch 7 days a week and the food is amazing! Total comfort food ranging from the old favorites like pancakes, to big Italian traditions like giambrotta for breakfast. Lunch is my favorite! Chicken cutlet sandwiches, BLTs, eggplant parm and sooo much more. The service is always given with a smile and the ambiance is so cozy.”

When I started writing this post there were two people sitting at tables, and now (ten minutes later) just about every table is filled. Moments ago my bowl of tomato Florentine arrived and it’s just about the best thing ever. Nice and hearty with fresh ingredients, piping hot and a generous portion. The activity in the eatery is now very lively – the second to last table was just taken and only the bar stools remain unoccupied.

Cafe-Capitano-NY-Buffalo.jpgMy dad’s Italian sausage pattie (named after a guy named Victor who just walked through the door) on rye bread just arrived with a side of golden crisped French fries. My tuna on rye has also arrived and is proving to be superb – just what I wanted. “This sandwich is perfect,” my dad just told me. I’ve just finished half of own sandwich and am calling it quits. I couldn’t even finish my fries. The portions are big, but not gluttonous… I might just opt out of a soup next time, though I would probably regret it afterwards.

Now that I’ve got some time to check out the rest of the menu, I have to point out that there is a fairly extensive breakfast offering that is available throughout the day. Big Bob’s Jumbota comes highly recommended. “This place reminds me of what I’ve always loved about Buffalo,” my friend Janie (currently living in DC) chimes in. “It’s got a friendly energy with great food… something that not every city has.”

North Buffalo is lucky to have Café Capitano in its midst. I suggest a visit as soon as you get a chance. It’s not the biggest place on Hertel, but it has the biggest Little Italy vibe to it. There’s a colorful mural, an attractive tin ceiling, an eye-catching awning and (already) a loyal clientele. On my way out I introduced myself to owner Bobby Panaro who told me what the trick to a good cup of coffee is (which I’m keeping secret). After a brief conversation I now know where all of the ‘liveliness’ of Capitano’s comes from… being a big fan of Vegas, instead of moving there Bobby brought some of the Glitter Gulch back to Buffalo. As I close my computer, Capitano’s is packed, everyone is giving hugs, kisses and pats on the back… and a photo of deceased Buffalo/Vegas musician Bobby Milano is being hung next to my table (right next to a photo of Joe Pesci). Little Italy has arrived (again) on Hertel Avenue and the gang is back to celebrate.    

Café Capitano (sit in or take out… I recommend sitting in)
1206 Hertel Avenue
Buffalo NY
716-844-8467

Written by RaChaCha

RaChaCha

RaChaCha is a Garbage Plate™ kid making his way in a Chicken Wing world. Since 2008, he's put over a hundred articles on here, and he asked us to be sure to thank you for reading. So, thank you for reading. You may also have seen his freelance byline in Artvoice, where he writes under the name his daddy gave him [Ed: Send me a check, and I might reveal what that is]. When he's not writing, RaChaCha is an urban planner, a rehabber of houses, and a community builder. He co-founded the Buffalo Mass Mob, and would love to see you at the next one. He represents Buffalo Young Preservationists on the Trico roundtable. If you try to demolish a historic building, he might have something to say about that. He is a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Things you may not know about RaChaCha (unless you read this before): "Ra Cha Cha" is a nickname of his hometown. (Didn't you know that? Do you live under a rock?) He's a political junkie (he once worked for the president of the Monroe County Legislature), but we don't really let him write about politics on here. He helped create a major greenway in the Genesee Valley, and worked on early planning for the Canalway Trail. He hopes you enjoy biking and hiking on those because that's what he put in all that work for. He was a ringleader of the legendary "Chill the Fill" campaign to save Rochester's old downtown subway tunnel. In fact, he comes from a long line of troublemakers. An ancestor fought at Bunker Hill, and a relative led the Bear Flag Revolt in California. We advise you to remember this before messing with him in the comments. He worked on planning the Rochester ARTWalk, and thinks Buffalo should have one of those, too (write your congressman).

You can also find RaChaCha (all too often, we frequently nag him) on the Twitters at @HeyRaChaCha. Which is what some people here yell when they see him on the street. You know who you are.

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