Capers & Lemons, Wilmington, DE – A Review

by artfuldiner on May 17, 2017

in Artful Diner Review, Wining and Dining

Capers & Lemons Italian Restaurant

301 Little Falls Drive

Wilmington, Delaware

(302) 256-0524

Capers & Lemons - Interior 2Like the previously reviewed Eclipse Bistro (March 2017), Capers & Lemons is part of the Platinum Dining Group, a full service hospitality group based in northern Delaware. C&L also just happens to be located a mere 3.5 miles from Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library… So just about the time Winterthur is closing up shop, you should be all primed and ready to hit C&L’s “happy hour” (Monday-Friday, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.). Draft beers – Peroni, Yuengling, Dogfish Head, Miller Lite and Lagunitas – go for $3.00; house wines – Italy’s Annalisa Pinot Grigio and California’s Rockbrook Pinot Noir (both very good, by the way) – $4.00 per glass; and mixers like a blood orange screwdriver and cosmo blanco, $5.00.

Caper & Lemons - AntipastoThe real winners, though, are the generous happy hour plates that are priced at a very reasonable $5.00 per. There are familiar items, such as Woodstone Oven Flatbread – either Margherita or pepperoni – and Hummus with veggies; but, for something a bit different, be sure to try the Fried Castelvetrano Olives stuffed with gorgonzola and served up with a spicy Dijon mustard. Hailing from Castelvetrano, Sicily, these Kermit-green olives have a meaty, buttery texture and delightfully mild flavor. Au naturel, they also make a guest appearance on the first-rate Antipasto (pictured), along with soppressata, house-made mozzarella, and crispy flatbread.

Capers & Lemons - Happy Hour MeatballsIf you’d prefer to go the marinara route, you have a choice of Fried Goat Cheese or Fried Mozzarella; both are excellent and arrive swimming in a rich and flavorful rustic tomato sauce. My nod, however, would undoubtedly go to the Market Meatballs (pictured). Three large, beautifully textured, and perfectly seasoned orbs are pillowed on polenta, crowned with shaved parmesan, and splashed with more of that superlative tomato sauce. Irresistible!

Capers & Lemons - Arugula SaladOnce seated in the dining area – try to snare one of the roomy, comfortable booths – you’ll find the regular menu every bit as rewarding as the happy hour munchies… And to start things off, the kitchen turns out a tempting array of salads, all of which are pristinely fresh and contain a delightfully diverse mix of ingredients. The House Salad, for example, combines chopped romaine, arugula, tomato, red onion, celery, chickpeas, and a zesty red wine vinaigrette. The Spinach Salad contains tomato, olives, red onion, cucumber, goat cheese, and splash of sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. The Arugula Salad (pictured), however, received a unanimous vote as the table favorite. Here you find an interesting amalgam of radicchio, roasted carrots, beets, toasted almonds, pecorino, and shallot vinaigrette. The roasted carrots are especially flavorful; and the enticing shallot vinaigrette succeeds in transporting what could be just ho-hum greenery completely out of the realm of the ordinary.

Capers & Lemons - Grilled ArtichokesThe appetizers proper also hold some interesting possibilities. Of course, you have the usual suspects – Fried Calamari, Shrimp Scampi, and Bruschetta – but nothing quite measures up to the marvelous Grilled Artichokes (pictured). The grilled hearts are just the proper consistency, which means firm to the bite but not at all chewy, while grilled lemon slices, shaved parmesan, and arugula add their own unique contributions to this incredibly delicious gastronomic gestalt.

Capers & Lemons - Eggplant Lasagna AppetizerFinishing a close second in the starter department is the Eggplant “Lasagna.” This is actually a pasta-less dish comprised of thin slices of tender sautéed eggplant interspersed with creamy ricotta cheese. A sensuous sea of tomato sauce contrasts nicely with the richness of the ricotta, while a tiara of sautéed spinach contributes divergent color and texture. If you’re fond of typically homey Neapolitan appetizers, this one fills the bill with style and panache.

Capers & Lemons - Spaghetti PomodoroEntrées offer diners a variety of options… and all are worthy of consideration. If you’re in the mood for something satisfyingly straightforward, for instance, the Spaghetti Pomodoro is hard to beat. This is Italian comfort food taken to the max; a relatively simple dish but hardly simplistic. The spaghetti is properly al dente; that is, cooked just enough to retain that highly desirable firm-to-the-bite texture. The basil tomato sauce is perfectly seasoned and marvelously flavorful, maintaining the all-important delicate balance between sweetness and acidity… And there’s just enough of that sauce to gently caress rather than drown the objects of its affection. Seems like a lot of verbiage to describe a humble plate of pasta… but you would know soon enough if any (or all) of these elements happened to be conspicuous by their absence.

Capers & Lemons - CioppinoOn the other hand, if you’d prefer to go a bit more upscale, bear in mind that the kitchen fashions its own pasta di mano, hand-crafted pasta each day. You might try the Ricotta Ravioli with crumbled sausage, Lasagna with tomato sauce, béchamel, mozzarella, and shaved parmesan, or the Pappardelle with luscious braised pork ragù… And the kitchen also turns out an extraordinarily delicious Cioppino (pictured), linguine awash with clams, shrimp and calamari in an herbed tomato broth crowned with garlic toast. Highly recommended.

Capers & Lemons - Chicken PiccataSeveral other familiar dishes also deserve mention. The Veal Saltimbocca – veal topped with prosciutto and garnished with mushrooms, mozzarella, and fresh sage in a fortified veal jus – is very nicely done…. ditto the Chicken Piccata (pictured). This latter dish is merely chicken cutlets dredged in flour, browned, and served with a sauce of butter, lemon juice, capers, and either stock or white wine. Like the saltimbocca, this is a first rate effort, sublime in its simplicity… And, as an added bonus, it is also served up with some of the best garlic mashed potatoes it has ever been my pleasure to ingest.

For the incurably carnivorous, nothing quite measures up to the kitchen’s take on Braciole. Thin slices of tender beef are hand-rolled with a filling of spicy capicola. Initially pan fried, they are finished in a rustic tomato sauce and then placed on a soft and savory polenta pillow.

Capers & Lemons - Faroe Island SalmonOn the other hand, if you prefer finny fare – as I do – the Faroe Island Salmon is not to be missed. The Faroe Islands are located in the middle of the North Atlantic with a population of less than 50,000 people. Despite the island group’s small size, however, their aquaculture industry stands out as the boutique producer specializing in farmed Atlantic salmon. There is no question that farmed salmon gets a bad rap – and with good reason… But the Faroese industry is committed to maintaining the highest levels of fish welfare (they are completely free of antibiotics) and sustainability; and this is clearly reflected in in their superior quality. In fact, many fishmongers believe Faroe Island salmon is the best in the world, even preferring them over the wild caught Alaskan variety.

Well, enough techie talk. The point is, Faroe Island salmon are utterly delicious; and the difference in taste between regularly farmed salmon and those from the Faroe Islands is immediately discernable. In C&L’s kitchen, the filets are grilled, placed on a seabed of perfectly seasoned orzo & sautéed garlic spinach and then finished with a marvelous lemon-caper sauce. An excellent dish… lovingly prepared and artfully presented.

Capers & Lemons - Baked Mac & Cheese SideIf you’re looking for an appropriate side to add of bit of pizzazz to the proceedings, the Rustic Polenta with mushroom ragù and brown butter is an excellent option… ditto the Mushroom Risotto garnished with Parmigiana Reggiano. But nothing quite fills the bill like the kitchen’s bounteous helping of Baked Mac n’ Cheese (pictured). Served up in an iron skillet with crispy pancetta and toasted breadcrumbs, make no mistake about it, this is one irresistibly cheesy, cheesy, cheesy dish that is guaranteed to send your next cholesterol test right into orbit… On the other hand, it is so utterly delicious that you probably won’t give a damn.

Capers & Lemons - Peanut Butter SemifreddoBut don’t rush off without dessert. The Classic Tiramisù – espresso-soaked ladyfingers, creamy mascarpone, whipped cream and shaved chocolate – is, indeed, “classic” in every sense of the word. My absolute favorite sweet ending, however, is the downright addictive Peanut Butter Semifreddo (pictured) encased in a hard chocolate shell. As the name implies, this is a “semi” frozen dessert; a light and refreshing mousse with a slightly softened texture. The key, though, is the enticingly subtle peanut butter flavor. It tastes… well, yes, like the real McCoy, rather than some blatantly artificial imposter, which is often the case with poorly made peanut butter-infused denouements. Other inducements include grape vin cotta (thick & syrupy “cooked wine” made from unfermented grapes) and a tiara of honey-salted peanuts.

As noted at the outset, if you happen to be visiting nearby Winterthur, perhaps taking in the currently on view Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes, Capers and Lemons makes a convenient stopover for either lunch or dinner. There’s also a market on the premises,, a specialty shop offering an assortment of olive oils, vinegars, artisanal cheeses, fresh pasta and sauces, baked goods, and other interesting items to stock your pantry shelves.

 Bon Appétit!


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