fb-pixel Skip to main content

In new digs, with a new proprietor, Waltham’s Il Capriccio still soars

Chef Rich Barron signed off after decades in the kitchen, but the staff stayed on and regulars keep coming

Pappardelle Bolognese at Il Capriccio, the popular Waltham restaurant now in a new space with new owners.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Where to Il Capriccio in Waltham, the star dining spot in the western suburbs, which moved from its longtime location on Main Street to The Merc building down the road near the corner of Moody.

Why Longtime chef-owner Rich Barron sold to Mike Chapman, who kept on the entire staff (except for manager Nahatai Pumarintara Harris, who retired); the restaurant was known for superb Northern Italian food and attentive service. Chapman re-created the place a year ago. It’s now roomier, with two dining rooms and a bar; two private rooms are for family gatherings and corporate meetings (they’re popular with biotech, pharma, and other area companies). On nice nights, a Main Street patio seats 44. Once you’re settled in at Il Capriccio, the table is yours. “We’re more concerned with the quality of the food and the experience,” says Chapman, who was raised in Nottingham, England. His wife, Cathy, is one of the hosts.


Chef Pastor Avelar (left) and executive chef Nate Allen at Il Capriccio, the popular Waltham restaurant now in a new space with new owners. Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The back story “Welcome to Il Capriccio 3.0,” says sommelier Jan Novak, longtime staffer, well respected in the industry. The restaurant was started by Enzo Danesi with Maurie Fox-Warren. Barron was their young chef; later he became a partner, then owner. Chapman, who recently closed Allston’s Glenville Stops, brought in Glenville chef Nate Allen, who had worked at Brasserie Jo in Boston, and at the acclaimed La Tour d’Argent in Paris. Alongside him is chef Pastor Avelar, the backbone of Il Capriccio’s kitchen for decades.

What to eat The food is not just cooked perfectly, but presented with flair and with great attention to detail. Tuna Tartare arrives as a little stack of avocado, chopped raw fish, and a flourish of micro-greens, surrounded by ultra-crisp chips. Grilled octopus with charred shishito peppers is set on smooth white bean puree. The unparalleled pappardelle Bolognese, made as if Marcella Hazan is looking over the chef’s shoulder, is offered in small and large portions (small is not at all small). A bouquet of roasted asparagus wrapped with crispy pancetta garnishes beautifully flaky line-caught cod on mashed potatoes. “Some dishes were perfected over many, many years,” says chef Allen, who kept the popular porcini souffle and chicken schnitzel; snails are now in a vol-au-vent puff-pastry shell with peas and morels.


Grilled octopus at Il Capriccio.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

What to drink Il Capriccio has long been famous for the depth and the quality of its overwhelmingly Italian wine list, with a 4,000-bottle cellar curated by Novak, who’s been recommending wine table-side for 30 years. There’s a good mix of well-known properties and some of the more exciting naturalist producers. Cocktails rotate seasonally.

The takeaway The familiar marble Il Capriccio sign greets customers when they enter, along with the same sea-green wall paint they saw before. “We created cues to returning customers,” says Chapman. Crown molding along the ceiling holds wine bottles all around and even with exposed HVAC pipes and no tablecloths (one of the few changes) the rooms aren’t noisy. Service is elegant. A note to retired chef Barron: Richie, your former staff and a new proprietor are taking very good care of your legacy. Marcella Hazan may be perched on the chefs’ shoulder, but you’re perched on everyone else’s. The Merc building, 704 Main St., Waltham. 781-894-2234, www.ilcapricciowaltham.com

Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.