WGBH's Henry Santoro interviewed Chef Tony Susi, owner of the restaurant Capo, about his latest culinary presence in South Boston. Below is a slightly edited transcription of their conversation. Click on the audio above to hear the interview.
Henry Santoro: Boston based chef Tony Susi is one of the most respected chefs in the city. He was born and raised in the North End and really made a name for himself when he owned the tiny 25-seat restaurant Sage just steps from where he grew up. His new restaurant, Capo, is in South Boston, and it's got people clamoring for Italian food the way that it should be: not rushed, slow cooked and mouth watering delicious. And it's my pleasure to welcome Tony Susi to 'Henry In The Hub' and Weekend Edition. Tony, good to see you.
Tony Susi: Hi, how are you?
Santoro: Very well, thank you. Several years ago at Sage you made for me a plate of shad roe that was so delicious that I remember that meal like it was yesterday.
Santoro: Sage was so small that we could reach in the kitchen and touch you.
Santoro: Now along comes Capo.
Santoro: Three hundred seats. How does that change your approach to food?
Susi: I think the vast difference between Capo and Sage — aside from the size — is the menu is more of like a comfort Italian menu with a lot of familiar classics because you want to appeal to a lot of people. It's more of a throwback menu, I guess, compared to what I used to do. Sage had French influences. I mean we're talking, you know, late 90s early 2000s so that was what was it back then. Now it's more about the comfort. We have a wood fire grill and a wood fire pizza oven and so there's that old school kind of...
Susi: Rustic element. Exactly.
Santoro: Is low and slow the way to go when creating a classic red sauce?
Susi: Yes. Especially if it involves a Ragu with meat, you want to simmer it super-slow for like two to three hours depending on, you know, what cuts you're using. And that's how you get all those great flavors out of it.
Santoro: Your dad and your cousin owned Sulmona meat market in the North End. You grew up there as a kid in that meat market. Tell us what that market did to help you advance your culinary career?
Susi: Ah! Growing up there you learn directly, you know, where your food comes from. Back in the days, my dad and uncles, they would slaughter their own lambs for Easter, and I got to see that. So inadvertently, I kind of learned all that stuff.
Santoro: Well there's an appreciation that comes with that.
Susi: Oh, absolutely.
Santoro: Let's talk about the name of the restaurant for a minute: Capo. You don't have to watch ‘The Godfather’ more than once to know that ‘capo’ means mob boss.
Susi: Right. Well it means a lot of things. In Italy, it means like a captain. When I sat down with the owners — Eric Aulenback and Mike Conlon — we kicked around a whole list of names. Eric really liked Capo but he did it in the sense of you being the head of the table. So we're going to treat you almost as if you are a mob boss but you’re the host, and we're going to make you feel special. So I think we're well on our way of doing that.
Santoro: And you're making food that would make Vito Corleone very happy.
Susi: Exactly. So we do six of the classics. We got the parmesans. We got the meatballs.
Santoro: Spaghetti and meat…you probably have the best spaghetti and meatballs in Boston.
Susi: I think I do. I'll put them up against anyone.
Santoro: And finally Tony, tell us about the recently opened Capo lounge.
Susi: Ah! The lounge downstairs, yes. Right now it's just open on the weekends. We use it as an event space but we're not using it, we’re open to the public right now. It's open Friday and Saturday nights starting around 7:00 or 7:30. We have live music from 9:00 pm to midnight.
Santoro: Well if you're looking for Chef Tony Susi you'll find him in the kitchen at Capo. 443 West Broadway in Southie. Tony, always a pleasure.
Susi: A pleasure and see you again soon.
Santoro: You got it.