Dear Foodies,

Veni, vedi, vici. That’s correct! I came, I saw, I conquered (a famous Latin sentence written by Julius Caesar) and now my taste buds are yearning for more! My love affair with this venue began when my dear friend Veronica (Travel Host Magazine) invited me to dine with her at Capellini, (McAllen location) one special evening. It turned out to be a mini-excursion to Naples.

For the past nine years, Capellini Ristorante located in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, has attracted droves of sophisticated diners who love fantastic dishes created by Executive Chef Antonio Matarazzo. His desire is not to show off or dazzle you with complicated dishes, but where he’s from and who he is matters. The “who” is a trained chef with some serious experience (working at various Michelin starred restaurants in Italy) under his belt. The “where he’s from” part varies from dish to dish, but that he’s Italian is always abundantly clear — Napoli (Pignataro Maggiore, Caserta) to be precise. Neopolitan cuisine is a result of the mix of different cultures combined with all the flavours and colours of Naples.

Now, let me get down to business, the food and mood! A sweet and pretty hostess greeted us with a smile and sat us in a cozy corner next to the window (I could see “la bella luna”).Then our waiter Rick Romero delighted us with a glass of pinot noir and proceeded to surprise us with various (compliments of the Chef — gratzi!) dishes which Veronica and I decided to share. The sleek restaurant’s modern interior is decked out with contemporary furniture, antique wood floors and turquoise glass chandeliers which evoke a true sense of style. An eclectic collection of works by Mexican/European artists add modern polish. The sounds (Andrea Bocelli signing in the background) and smells of “la dolce vita” were surrounding us. The meal that evening progressed at a stately, almost reverential, pace. We had their house salad, Carpaccio di Manzo ($14.00), Napoli Mussels ($13.00) and homemade Lobster ravioli ($22.00). The best part for me — even better than the sweet, tender mussels themselves — was breaking off chunks of crusty ciabatta bread and sopping up the wonderful wine and lemon scented mussel broth in the bottom of the tureen. The Carpaccio (thin slices of raw fillet mignon) was to die for! It was topped with shaved Parmigiano cheese, fresh basil (from their patio garden), sliced mushrooms, and virgin olive oil. Each bite was soaked with flavor . . . yes, that’s amore! Our favorite moment was visiting and chatting with Chef Antonio. We met him outside for some Italian Espresso and dessert. This attractive patio (wonderful Valley breeze) area was an added plus after our culinary experience. Veronica and I stopped looking at our watches and slowly savored the “Dessert di formaggi con frutta assortito” ($11.00). This traditional dessert is served with your choice of three Italian cheese options and an assortment of fruits such as grapes, dried cranberries and a delicious orange preserves. We tasted the buffalo mozzarella from Campania, the Podda Classico cheese (sweet and nutty) and a Bianco Sottobosco cheese (with truffles). They were sensational. Hail to the European cheese makers and exporters! They only use raw milk — and take great pride in their cheese. Who wants to eat nasty processed cheese? Not me! Oh, sorry, I got side tracked! As we tasted the sweet flavors of the fruit combined with the creamy artisan cheese a good looking man with a welcoming smile introduced himself. General Manager (and Partner) Artemio Araujo has worked closely with Chef Antonio for many years. Both of them have that ill-concealed tiredness typical of those who give themselves body and soul to their job, turning cuisine into art and at the same time they are able to enchant those who are able to appreciate it.” Capellini” is also known for their Italian Antipasti (ante, “before”; pasto,” food”) which is a time-honored food tradition. They offer a variety of grilled vegetables preserved in oil, brined olives, sardines (cured in vinegar), octopus, extraordinary roasted red peppers, fava beans with pecorino pastore in oil and champagne vinegar, charred asparagus and sautéed mushroom; light and perfect (3 selections for $9.00). I would like to thank Chef Antonio and Artemio for this experience. I was invited to go back and had the pleasure of tasting some other sensational dishes (rack of lamb, chicken with gorgonzola, etc.) — am I lucky or what?! I will write about that visit in January. Stay tuned . . . for more! $$

Mangia Bene,

Madame Gourmand

Capellini Ristorante y Galleria, 701 N. Main, McAllen. 956-683-7999

*Come by during the Art Walk

* Live Jazz Fri. & Sat.

Open Monday — Saturday

Monday — Thursday 5pm — 11pm Friday and Saturday 5pm- midnight