July – August 2013
Zephyr Cove’s family-owned Italian eatery is worth the occasional wait, got it?
BY CHARLIE JOHNSTON
After several weeks of Nevada Magazine Senior Graphic Designer Danny Miller bragging about how great the handmade “Ravs” at Zephyr Cove’s Capisce? are, I could barely wait for our waitress to set them on the table before digging in to taste for myself.
The swollen pillows of homemade pasta, Italian pork sausage, and imported cheeses are like no raviolis I’ve ever seen or tasted. As thick as they are wide, the raviolis more closely resemble pasta-wrapped meatballs than they do the nearly flat, filling starved morsels that pass for raviolis at other Italian restaurants I’ve visited.
I cut my first in half, and it is still too big for a single bite. The cheese blend mixed with the sausage makes the filling subtly chewy, and the homemade pasta is just flavorful enough to stand up to the filling’s Italian spices and rich flavor.
A simple butter-and-cheese topping lets the taste of the raviolis do the work, while the other topping option, Capisce?’s own homemade gravy, lends a complex and hardy flavor to the raviolis. Eight “Ravs” (as they’re called on the menu) come as a dinner option with either or both toppings, and the four-piece Ravioli Sampler appetizer provides an ingenious method to help keep your dinner companions from sneaking any off your plate.
Owner Rick Miller, Danny’s brother, explains that the gravy that tops Capisce?’s raviolis is actually what most people would recognize as red sauce, “gravy” being the “old country” term for the porcini mushroom/tomato-based topping. Regardless of what it’s called, one thing is certain: Capisce?’s gravy is universally adored by patrons. “People swear there’s meat in it,” Rick says with a chuckle. “But it’s just porcini mushrooms and our fourhour cooking process.”
Despite several attempts to coax more of the gravy’s ingredients out of him, Rick remains tight-lipped about the coveted family recipe that also makes appearances on several more dishes, including tantalizingly crunchy-fried risotto balls, handmade pizzas, spaghetti and meatballs, and veal Parmigiana.
Far from a one-hit wonder, Capisce?’s menu contains a litany of chart toppers to compete with the popular raviolis and gravy-smothered offerings. Spicy Pasta consists of homemade linguini with Andouille sausage, shrimp, bell peppers, and onion tossed in a light cream sauce with a kick. While the standard preparation of the dish is indeed quite spicy, the kitchen is happy to cut back on the spice—or turn up the heat—at a customer’s request.
Traditional lasagna with rich red sauce is a meaty and filling rendition of Italy’s premier comfort food, and linguini in a light pesto cream sauce with sautéed chicken breast shows the lighter side of Capisce?. If you find the menu too tantalizing to choose just one entrée, The Trio offers raviolis, lasagna, and a choice between Spicy Pasta or chicken pesto.
Recipes like that for the gravy are about the only things kept quiet at Capisce?. The familyowned eatery (Lisa Miller prepares recipes passed down through her family for generations, husband Rick and son Bryan tend to guests in the bar and dining room, and you can also find the daughters—Arianna, Gianna, and Annalyse—all lending a hand) imbues guests with a sense that they are at the Millers’ home for dinner. The bar is jovial most nights of the week, the dining room is only slightly less lively, and bartenders and waiters interact with their customers as though they are old friends. Some, in fact, are.
The Lake Tahoe eatery is in many ways the reincarnation of the Millers’ former Carson City restaurant, Devincenzi’s. When that restaurant closed about eight years ago, Rick says many of its regular customers grew anxious for the family’s next culinary venture. When Capisce? opened four years ago in June, it had a built-in clientele— and quickly started to win the hearts of more soon-to-be regulars.
“I can’t believe I waited so long to experience the amazingness of Capisce?,” one of many flattering Yelp reviews reads. Mirroring our dining experience in March, online reviews of the restaurant focus on its friendly atmosphere; homemade pastas, gravy, and raviolis; and the crowd-favorite Lisa’s Buns.
Described on the menu as “A warm, sticky, cinnamon- infused, buttery sweet bun that will bring a smile to your face and tummy!” the dessert is a decadent and gooey cinnamon bun, elevated from the status of breakfast treat to the exclamation point capping off the best homemade Italian dinner at Lake Tahoe. So popular are the buns that Rick says they are in negotiations with a national grocery store chain about the prospect of mass-producing them.