It’s hard to escape the feeling of being at a casino while you’re there. There’s the low but ever-present music pumping out of the loudspeakers, the whirring, buzzing, and cha-chinging of hundreds of slot machines, the shouting from card dealers and patrons, and at Connecticut’s casinos, at least, the familiar but almost forgotten smell of cigarettes in a public place.
But step inside Caputo Trattoria at Foxwoods Resort Casino and these simultaneously frustrating and delightful casino sights and sounds disappear. They’re swept away by a large restaurant with an open, airy design and bright color scheme. The many booths are striped white and yellow, the standalone chairs and bar are a sky blue, and the place is unmistakably coastal and chic.
Caputo Trattoria opened in May in Foxwoods’ Grand Pequot Tower in the space formerly home to Al Dente.
“We brought in a company from New York to help design and bring it up to date,” executive chef Gary LaMothe says. “We tried to go with a coastal, real bright, open feel.”
Like the space itself, the cuisine is a breath of fresh air. Caputo is owned by Craveable Hospitality Group, which owns David Burke Prime next door, where LaMothe worked in the kitchen for the past decade. Prior to working at David Burke Prime, LaMothe spent 12 years at various restaurants within the casino and helped to open Paragon on the 24th floor, which has since been replaced with the restaurant Vue 24.
In preparation for opening Caputo, LaMothe traveled to Italy, exploring Milan, Florence and Rome. When he returned, he helped create a menu focused on house-made fresh pasta.
“I’m in love with all the pasta,” he says. “It has silkiness but it’s still got some bite to it. With fresh pasta, usually you can’t serve it al dente because fresh pasta is not firm enough, but we’ve got a nice texture to ours.”
Another favorite of LaMothe’s is the Caputo Pie ($49), chicken parmesan served pizza-style with marinara, mozzarella and hot honey that feeds two to eight people. There’s also cacio e pepe ($19), spaghetti with black pepper and parmesan, made tableside, and a wide assortment of classic Italian dishes from various pastas to eggplant parmesan ($28) and chicken Milanese ($28). There are also gluten-free options.
During my visit, LaMothe served a complimentary menu of beef carpaccio with aioli, pickled shallots and capers ($16), crispy arancini with red wine-braised short rib ($15), and taleggio ricotta ravioli with roasted asparagus, lemon, cultured butter ($19), and a side of meatballs. All the dishes were winners. True to LaMothe’s word the ravioli was al dente, and the meatballs, doused in a classic, rich red sauce, were crave-inducing.
The restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe menu for $39 most days of the week, with a discount to $32 on Tuesdays.
My meal was capped by a delicious and creamy coconut gelato, imported from Italy, and a glass of the house-made limoncello that was better tasting and less sweet than many I’ve tried.
“We take lemon peels off and soak them in vodka for 30 days and we add simple syrup,” LaMothe says. “It makes a delicious limoncello. It’s not overly yellow like you’ll see in commercial limoncellos; they add food coloring to make it yellow. The more clear and see-through it is, the better the quality.”
The beverage program is completed by a wine list curated by David Burke Prime’s sommelier, and a variety of craft cocktails such as the limoncello fizz with that house-made limoncello, ginger beer and prosecco.
A complimentary limoncello is provided with the check as well as a cotton candy dessert. The cotton candy provides a quirky and enjoyable close to the meal and a fun reminder that, yes, you are in a casino after all.