Hours: Open seven days, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Prices: Lunch entrees, $3.50-6.95; dinner entrees, $6.95-15.95. Cards: American Express, Diner's Club, MasterCard, Visa.
This familiar Capitol Hill watering hole, where the Man in the Green Hat formerly hung his, is still a sparely attractive little bar, full of daylight and blond wood and elderly photos of the neighborhood.
But better to bend the elbow here, or toss back a few at the Friday evening raw bar. Food-wise, as they say on the Hill, the bistro has become a bimbo -- cute, but direly flaky.
How else to explain an Italian (at least, nominally Italian) restaurant where the waiters have to apologize repeatedly that the "Italian chef" has the day off, or the flu, or is new? A kitchen that both steams its mussels open and then rinses them out, and pours the marinara sauce not over the linguini, but over the open mussel shells, so you can't possibly eat anything without recoloring your entire ensemble? (No shellfish fork, or course.)
Or a bar that actually boasts of a house special "coffee" that includes Kahlua, amaretto, light and dark creme de cacao, Bailey's Irish Cream and Irish whiskey -- topped with whipped cream!
Lunch at Capri is classic Hillie: reuben and roast beef sandwiches; pasta and spinach and smoked fish salads; stuffed avocados and tomatoes filled with walnut and pineapple; pizzas; omelets and quiches, and a handful of fallbacks like lasagna, manicotti, New York strip and eggplant parmigiana.
Daily off-the-menu specials range from fried chicken and hot roast beef (on Wonder bread) to grilled rainbow trout. They're relatively safe, partly because the waiters (one of Capri's best points) are frank about what's palatable or not.
On the other hand, you should listen carefully to what various waiters are saying (a trick made simple by the peculiarly brash acoustics of the place): One day, I asked for fish after the last serving had been taken, but while I was having soup, my waiter informed the next table over that more fish had just come in; he never asked if I still wanted it.
At night, the menu expands to include such ubiquitous appetizers as nachos, baked brie, potato skins and fried zucchini (served with a blue-cheesy dip); and a half-dozen veal dishes, ditto chicken and seafood.
The menu lists minestrone and french onion soup; however, the minestrone was substituted for on at least two occasions by creamy chicken, once fair and once so thick it was forcibly reminiscent of frozen pot pie filling.
The pasta itself is properly al dente, but the red sauces taste suspiciously of tomato paste. Choices include fettucini alfredo, linguini with red or white clam sauce, and pasta "Capri" -- a sort of Christmas-colored dish of green fettucini with mushrooms and meatballs.
"Capri"-style veal is rather like mass-frozen veal cordon bleu: wrapped in ham and cheese and topped with a floury brown sauce tasting of cooking marsala. Less obstreperous versions range from veal piccata, the classic butter and lemon juice saute; and veal parmigiana.
The Cafe is as good-hearted as possible, but in this case, the Man was father to the hoi polloi.