Capers' new dinner menu offers patrons a Mediterranean dining experience with such classic Italian dishes as bruschetta, pizza, minestrone, pasta and risotto, as well as lamb, veal and eggplant specialties.

The downtown restaurant opened for breakfast in June, in the space on Central Avenue formerly occupied by Gaetano Ristorante Italiano, and later added its lunch buffet.

The dinner menu may yet see a few changes, contingent upon fresh fare available on a weekly basis and Chef Matthew's creativity.

Last weekend's special included a chilled cucumber soup with mint creme fraiche and an entree of trout amandine, followed by a white-chocolate brownie served with blueberries and Chantilly, or whipped, cream. The cost was $45 per couple. Wine aficionados undoubtedly could find vintages to complement these courses on the restaurant's substantial wine list. Indeed, the restaurant still hosts the wine-tasting room put in place under the Gaetano management.

My friend, Stacey, and I visited Capers on a warm Friday night, and the chilled cucumber soup tempted. We were feeling more like a "girl's night out" than "a couple," so we turned our attention to the regular choices.

Capers offers pasta "any way you like it," starting with penne, fettuccine, spaghetti and linguine ($14), gnocchi ($15) or tricolored tortellini ($16), tossed with any sauce made at the restaurant: Alfredo, white wine and lemon, Bolognese, pesto, marinara, creamy Gorgonzola and, finally, an uncommon almond cream. Add sausage to your creation for $3, $4 for chicken or meatballs, $5 for clams or $6 for shrimp. Other extras include sauteed spinach or vegetables ($3).

I like my pasta cooked until tender, and our server, Jesus, checked with the kitchen to see if the restaurant had capellini, or angel hair pasta. I added the Alfredo sauce and grilled chicken and chose the soup, a light, flavorful broth made from a blend of potatoes, cabbage, onion, fennel and garnished with fresh parsley. Looking back, I realize I should have sampled the minestrone. It and bruschetta are the measure of a good Italian restaurant.

Stacey selected the risotto ($18.50) with white wine, shallots, wild mushrooms, truffle oil and Parmesan, and she substituted a small Caesar ($3.50) for the dinner salad.

The bruschetta we started with was delicious. The diced Roma tomatoes topping the crostini had been marinated in olive oil, garlic and basil, with the seeds removed, to give this appetizer a deep, rich flavor that we enjoyed.

We also were impressed with the pasta and risotto dishes. They were creamy yet much lighter than standard Italian fare. This made my health-conscious dining partner happy. The flavors of the dishes also were light and subtle. Some patrons may want to reach for the salt, but we enjoyed the dishes without extra seasoning.

We arrived rather late at the restaurant, and the last of the diners were leaving. Hence, there was no wait for our food. I recommend arriving earlier and taking time to enjoy your meal.

Sarah Lemon, food editor at the Mail Tribune, visited Capers a few weeks ago for the all-you-can-eat lunch buffet ($8.95). There was tri-tip with horseradish sauce, seared chicken breast, Caesar and spring-mix salads, fresh fruit, steamed vegetables, chicken ravioli, rigatoni and berry crisp for desert.

The Caesar salad was very good, she reports, with big shavings of real Parmesan, a tasty dressing and croutons. When topped with the buffet's seared chicken, it was better than the typical "grilled-chicken Caesar" found at restaurants.

The breakfast menu offers frittata, quiche, French toast and Belgian waffles, along with roasted peppers filled with a souffle of potato, egg, sour cream and cheese. Other selections include a plate of dried fruit, a soft-boiled egg, granola, Greek yogurt, pastry and chef Matthew's sauteed dates and scrambled eggs served with flatbread. Prices range from $6 to $8, $1 to $5 for some to-go breakfast items.

— Laurie Heuston

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