Regretfully this little gem
has now closed. Costanzo is opening a new
place soon so check back here for more info
Saunter up and down Buchanan Street, blink twice and you might miss it.
From the outside, Ristorante Caprese Glasgow could well be mistaken for the outside of a drab laundrette or second hand junk store.
Search for it online or in the telephone directory, and you'll begin to get the impression that it's nothing but a figment of your imagination.
If you eventually find the place however, ignore the dodgy exterior and head bravely downstairs into the restuarant, there's a fair chance that you'll never look back!
I've been dining at Ristorante Caprese Glasgow for a number of years now. I think my first time was after my graduation at university. My family had booked one of the larger tables & that night we all gathered round and were treated to one of the best meals I'd ever had. Despite the amount of wine I guzzled that night, I'll still never forget it!
That first time we went, I think it was in about 1999, we had the unforgettable experience of meeting the owner of Ristorante Caprese, Costanzo Cacace. Now in this life there are characters, and well, there are characters. When we first met Costanzo, every last one of us felt taken aback by how much just one guy could make our meal so entertaining and pleasurable, such is the guy's jovial approach.
My mum doing the rounds
I mean, at any given moment you could find him standing on a chair to gloriously announce the menu or to take your picture to place amongst the hundreds of other photos dotted around the walls. He speaks & cooks with traditional Italian flair, but a word of warning here - please make sure you get the language correct when you talk back to him. When we were there for my mum's surprise 60th birthday dinner (check the drunken photos here), I'm sure I saw him wave a loaf of bread menacingly at a customer who'd just spoken French to him! Mi scusi!
I also remember him asking a customer once to re-tell a funny story he only caught the last part of, casually stuffing napkins in his ears as the customer began to speak! One other time the lights suddenly went out, and just as we started to think we'd been hit by a major power cut, Costanzo came in with a loaf of bread with lit candles in it, singing happy birthday for a very embarassed looking girl! An experience and a half.
Costanzo's actually been in the local newspapers over here for a while. Ristorante Caprese has been on Buchanan Street for well over 20 years, long before the street became the newly developed hub of shopping utopia it is now. Where the restaurant is situated however, is the only part of the street which remains undeveloped.
Without boring you with the complete story (too late?!!).
suffice to say that there's been a long, hard-fought legal battle over development of the site and demolition of the restaurant, a battle between David & Goliath (or more accurately, Costanzo & two very large investment companies) that may yet end up in the House of Lords in London, and for quite some time this small, family-run restaurant has been holding its own with the support of its loyal & very well fed clientele.
However, please read this unfortunate update.
Claire & John having a laugh!
But enough of all this chit chat. What's the place & menu actually like?
As I said, once you head down the stairs into Ristorante Caprese, you'll likely be met by one of Costanzo's family who will lead you to your table. The first thing you'll notice is the hundreds of photos on the walls of delighted customers, celebrities and normals like us, and depending on what time you get there, you'll probably be immersed straight away with the busy & warm atmosphere which always relaxes & warms me up in no time.
Again depending on what time & day you book for, the menu and options available will vary. By and large though, quite aside from the massive array of outstanding wine on display, you'll find that on offer will be a good selection of traditional, freshly cooked Italian food, without much of the (usually unnecessary) twists we British tend to add to foreign dishes you'd never find if you actually visited Italy - we also do the same with Indian food here - just go to India & ask for a Chicken Tikka Masala (the UK's favourite dish) and you'd get a right funny look!
At Ristorante Caprese I'd thoroughly recommend trying one of the risottos, but if you get the chance you should also ask about their dover sole, sea bream, and their excellent caprese lasagne with aubergines & tiger prawns. Mouth watering or what? Whatever you do go for however, you can be sure it'll be v. tasty and served with a smile.
Uncle Ronnie & me gabbing away
Me & my mummy - awww!
My Bro & Better Half
My family & Stevo's bald head!
Well here's the secret! Have a good look at this handy map. Once you know what you're looking for, it ain't that difficult to find. Ristorante Caprese Glasgow is on Buchanan Street, up towards the Royal Concert Hall at the top of the street, and you look to your left when you pass the first entrance to Buchanan Galleries (the one with all the stairs).
The outside is shown on the picture at the top of this page, so you shouldn't have much difficulty in finding it. It really is a case of only being able to locate it if you're looking for it, because otherwise you'll likely pass it by without a thought - and that's probably why it's still one of Glasgow's best kept secrets.
So to enjoy a great Italian lunch or dinner you'll just never forget, and experience what I've been on about & what people like Billy Connolly, Dan Akroyd, Alan Rickman, and even our late First Minister Donald Dewar have come to taste, and if my (rather drunken) family photo below doesn't put you off too much, give the restaurant a call on and get in there quick before it's booked out.
Trust me, Ristorante Caprese Glasgow is an absolute gem of a restaurant you'll be talking about for years to come!
Mia Famiglia! To the left - Dad, Steven, Tracey, Claire, John - to the right - Mum, Me, Ronnie, Margaret, John