Dining Out: Capiche is the place to go for that on-the-go meal

One VERY cold afternoon in late December, I was looking for a lunch option everyone could agree on. We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation at home, and I needed something quick and tasty. The fast-casual trend has been very popular since the success of Chipotle, and I was thinking along those lines when I decided to give Capiche Street Food Italiano a try.

Located on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park, Capiche, a sister restaurant to Cafe Mezzanote 3.9 miles south on Ritchie Highway, offers Italian street food with fresh, local ingredients. Although I do prefer this style of dining over traditional fast-food, speed usually sacrifices quality, so I was a bit skeptical about how good this was going to be. So, while everyone continued to work at the house, I went on a food-run.

Entering the restaurant, I was surprised at how well themed it was. I can see by the attention given to logos and design that Capiche might offer franchise opportunities. This means strict standardization, which is often another sign of lessened quality. The menu was simple but versatile. You either choose Pizza, Pasta, Piada or Salad, each costing $8.50. From there you can either make your own, or pick from one of the pre-selected flavor schemes.

My first choice was a pizza. Their pizzas are all one crust style and one size, about 12 inches. For flavors I chose the Maximus, which included tomato sauce, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, meatballs, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil. The meats were very good, especially the meatballs, which have a nice spice to them. The crust is sturdy and thin, but more crackery than crispy. All of the toppings were good quality, with fresh herbs, a nicely flavored sauce and both mozzarella and shaved parmesan cheeses. This was an enjoyable pizza, and easily as good, if not better, than the other fast-casual pizza places that are cropping up these days.

The second item was a pasta. All of their pastas are spaghetti noodles that have been par-cooked and finished to order. The flavor I choose was the Petey Pesto. This is chicken, artichoke slices, roasted red peppers, ricotta cheese and a pesto puree. The pasta was nicely cooked, and the whole dish was creamy with ricotta cheese. The pesto puree was lacking in flavor, and was further drowned out by the cheeses. The artichokes were more andante than they should have been, and the roasted red peppers were softer than I would have expected. My wife liked this pasta meal a lot more than I did, so maybe I just didn’t enjoy that particular combo. It was nicely made, just not great.

The third item was the Piada. This is a term I was unfamiliar with. As it turns out, a piada is similar to a quesadilla or burrito, but with a slightly different flatbread. Capiche serves theirs with either salad or pasta and the chosen fillings. I selected the Meatballer option, which included: bacon, fresh oregano, tomato sauce, Grana Padano cheese and that excellent beef-veal-pork meatball. This was really good. I chose the pasta, which along with the meatball, tasted like I’d wrapped my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs into a toasted crusty bread. I loved the texture and the floury, fresh-baked quality of the flatbread itself. This was great street food.

The only dessert that Capiche offers is its cannolis. Each container comes with two small, pre-filled cannolis. These were only just o.k. The shells were on the soft side from sitting in the cold case. The filling was thick rather than creamy. The flavor was there, but the texture wasn’t. These would have been so much better if they were filled to order.

When all was said and done, Capiche is offering something that few fast food places do: quality ingredients. Although I may not have enjoyed everything I had, the ingredients themselves were fresh and well prepared. I watched as pasta was being cooked and pizza doughs were being made. The line was clean and the service was quick. I definitely think that Capiche is worth trying when you’re looking for that on-the-go meal. I will be back to try the salads, and I can’t wait to get another Meatballer Piada. Y’know what I mean?

David R. Ludwig is the Assistant Director of the Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Institute at Anne Arundel Community College.

Capiche Street Food Italiano

WHERE: 147 Ritchie Highway, Suite E, Severna Park

PHONE: 443-906-3200

WEBSITE: http://www.capicheitaliano.com

HOURS: Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

LUNCH/DINNER: $8.50 to $12

RESERVATIONS: none

CREDIT CARDS: All Major Cards

ACCESSIBILITY: Yes

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