Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Didn’t Know . . .

whether to title this blog “All in the Family” or “It’s a Family Affair.” But the father and son combo of Tony and Matt Caputo have combined to create one of the most fantastic Italian markets we have seen.

Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli is Salt Lake City’s leading purveyor of regional Italian and Southern European foods. Proprietor Tony Caputo and his son Matt are known for their ability to select and create authentic food products from Italy, Spain, Greece, France and other Southern European countries.

In the Market, Caputo's sells the largest selection of Italian foods in Utah. In addition to the large selection of olive oils, olives, pasta, vinegars, antipasti and thousands of other specialty grocery items, including a variety of prosciutto named Pata Negra Recebo (from Spain's famous black foot Iberian pig which is grazed on the Iberian Dehesa but is finished on grain) that sells for $98.00 a pound, Caputo's has recently added a “cheese cave” to replicate the perfect environment for aging cheeses and it allows Caputo's to offer over two hundred perfectly fresh farmstead cheeses.

Caputo’s also has their own in-house salame maker—Cristiano Creminelli. Cristiano's family has been hand making salame for over four hundred years and their salumificio (salame shop) was named best in the entire region of Piedmont in 2006. In 2007, he came to Caputo's to make all natural salame with all natural Utah pork.

If having a cheese cave and an in-house salame maker aren’t enough, Caputo's offers the largest selection of ultra premium chocolate in the United States, with over three hundred different chocolate bars, and is also the exclusive outlet in Utah for the best filled chocolates in the U.S., Chocolatier Blue. But, since it is always a bad idea to grocery shop on an empty stomach, we first headed to Caputo’s adjoining restaurant for a little lunch.

The restaurant is little more than a large room where you order at the counter, find a seat, wait for your number to be called, and then retrieve your food. One wall is open to the outside and another wall of glass looks into the Aquarius Fish Company.

At lunch, Caputo’s offers soups, salads, sandwiches, a special of the day, and a short list of desserts. The signature sandwich, “The Caputo” (prosciutto, mortadella, salami, provolone, lettuce, and tomatoes on a hard Italian roll covered with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), has been named third best sandwich in America by FHM Magazine. It has also been awarded the title of best sandwich in Utah by The American Sandwich cookbook. The meatball sandwich was also picked as one of the top ten sandwiches in America by Unlimited magazine.

We went for sandwiches, but didn’t choose either of these two. Our choices were Muffaletta (that New Orleans' famous sandwich with salami, ham, mortadella, cheese, and olive salad on a round French roll) and the Mozzarella and Tomato (fresh mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil). To this we added a small order of bread salad (made with fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and croutons) and Mikey’s Mac Salad (bow tie pasta, red onion, red and green bell pepper, and fresh thyme in a light creamy dressing).

And, of course, we couldn’t resist sharing a cannoli.

For me, the mac salad worked better than the bread salad, which I thought suffered from a slight excess of vinegar. But then, I am not fond of overly acidic foods, so others might find the vinegar to oil balance just right. At first glance, the mac salad looked as though it could use more dressing, but after a few bites, I decided that it was just right.

The tomato, mozzarella, lettuce, and basil sandwich came on a great crusty roll and was enhanced with just enough balsamic vinegar to perk up the taste buds. (I wish they had used the balsamic instead of the wine vinegar in the bread salad.) And the moist and creamy fresh mozzarella had been cut into slices at least a third of an inch thick. No skimping on the quality ingredients here.

And there was no skimping with the muffaletta either. Served on a traditional round roll/loaf, the bread was stuffed with great meats from Caputo’s market and topped with oily garlic infused olive salad. But the roll was a little softer or fluffier than I would have liked.

And the cannoli was first rate. The tubular shell was crisp but not hard that didn’t shatter with your first bite and was filled with vanilla flavored cream cheese. Perhaps I should have ordered my own cannoli.

So how did eating first and shopping later work for us? Not so good. Soon I had a small shopping cart filled with cheeses, a long loaf of bread, prosciutto (not the $98.00/pound variety), mortadella, bresola, a stick of Cristiano Creminelli’s wild boar sausage, imported penne, and a bottle of truffle oil. And we engaged in an extended conversation with Kathy who was working behind the deli counter and who recounted all of the awards that Caputo’s has received. These include: Best Italian Market and Best Sandwiches by the Salt Lake City Weekly magazine; Best Deli by Salt Lake Magazine; and Best Bang for Your Buck (Entire Rocky Mountain West) Zagat Survey. The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade in 2009 named Tony Caputo's Market & Deli "Specialty Retailer of the Year."

And, in 2009, Matt Caputo was named Best Food and Wine Educator in the state of Utah by Salt Lake Magazine. This is the only year the award was given!

And, not only are Tony and Matt accomplished foodies, they are also environmentally sensitive. Caputo’s uses only wind energy to power the market and deli, there are plans to install solar panels on the building, and the plastic grocery bags are biodegradable.

So how does Caputo’s stack up against our beloved Andreoli’s in Scottsdale. Caputo’s sandwiches are a slight level below Andreoli’s and only earn a 4.5 Addie rating. But as a market, Caputo’s reigns supreme. It is a good thing that I don’t live in Salt Lake City. Caputo’s would be bad for my budget.

Early that morning, we had stopped at the weekly Farmers' Market in the park across from Caputo's. Sections of the large city park were divided into food products, arts and crafts, and food booths with musicians interspersed throughout.

Two of the food product stops we made were at the Pioneer Valley and the Beehive Cheese Company booths. Both of these companies have been featured on Food Network shows. The Pioneer Valley Peach Cobbler Jam and Strawberry Rhubarb Jam were described with terms like "heritage peach jam like your grandmother might have made" and "old time favorite" with "the taste of yesterday brought back again," respectively.

We also stopped at the Beehive Cheese Co. booth. In 2005, brothers-in-law, Tim Welsh and Pat Ford, left the fast-paced world of software and real estate for the more simple way of life as artisan cheese makers.

Three of their cheeses--the earthy, buttery-smooth Full Moon, the Squeaky Bee Curds ("if your curds don't squeak, they are not Beehive Curds")and the aged Uintah Jack--made their way into our basket.

In addition to the typical food booths, we came across a wood-fired pizza oven, the Happy Monkey Hummus booth, and this booth selling Sudanese staples.

Finally, there were the usual guitarists sprinkled among the booths, but this Market also featured a solo clarinetist, three violinists, and this duo playing their didgeridoos.

Just another round of surprises in Salt Lake City.


Anonymous said...


Evan S said...

Very nice post.

I will vouch for the booth selling Sudanese food. It is a delicious selection of items, which can be ordered individually or as a combo plate. The people who run the booth are refugees, and the money they have earned has been used to open a restaurant on the west side of Salt Lake City.