Capri Restaurant

A neighborhood Italian restaurant that specializes in seafood.

From September 2004

The de Chiara brothers have been fixtures in the Washington area for several decades, starting with the Romeo & Juliet on DC's K Street. In recent years they have been operating the successful Renato in Potomac. Brother Renato de Chiara now can be seen, with his mane of near-white hair, at the Capri on the second floor of a strip of shops in the heart of McLean. The decor features pictures of Capri plus a fishnet or two. The dining room is comfortable, the service conscientious.

There are good appetizers, several of which recur as daily specials. The vitello tonnato appeared in a classy presentation with capers and tasted as good as it looked. Another success was fresh large sea scallops in a vermouth reduction served on a bed of spinach. The lobster bisque, with shreds of lobster, was appropriately intense. Fried baby calamari, integrated with fried zucchini, was too oily. A mixed green salad was fine, but the dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar was weighted too much toward the olive oil.

Pastas–with daily specials, there are a dozen or so–have been a high point at Capri. When ordered al dente, they appear al dente in the Italian way, which may be a bit firm for some diners. Pastas sampled with pleasure have been the penne all'arrabiata (meaning angry), prepared with tomato sauce with chunks of peeled plum tomatoes and crushed red peppers; linguine with small clams and a light sauce of white wine, garlic, and basil; angel-hair pasta with a veal ragout; agnolotti with spinach and ricotta in a mascarpone cheese sauce; and farfalle with smoked salmon, shallots, vodka, and a cream sauce.

Main courses have been less successful. Two of the best were the generous rack of lamb and the whole grilled fish. The lamb consisted of six chops coated with a honey-and-walnut crust that did not intrude unduly and a Madeira wine sauce; it was served with a nice variety of carefully prepared garnishes. The rockfish was simply grilled with parsley and lemon. Not making the grade were the gamberoni Renato, in which neither the shrimp nor the crust had much flavor; underseasoned and underportioned veal scallopine served with lemon-and-butter sauce that was too thickened; and Chilean sea bass with a sauce of shallots and white wine and a topping that the menu promised was lump crabmeat but that included quite a bit of lesser-grade crab.

Desserts lean toward gelato and sorbetto, which are house-made and very good. Skip the fancy versions, such as peach sorbetto served in a frozen peach, or the coconut sorbetto served in a half coconut, and order the house assortment. Baked desserts, such as the hazelnut mousse cake, were good. The wine list is adequate and reasonably priced, though it would be better if vintages were included. Bread is terrific. Another plus is the very fine espresso.