Capellini’s Restaurant – The Big Test

One issue that hasn’t arisen many times since I’ve been vegan is dining out with my non-vegetarian family. Holidays and birthdays have been spent at home to keep them simple and I’m rarely home enough on weekends for impromptu lunches out. However, today I had the chance to not only test out a non-vegan restaurant’s flexibility, but to make or break my relationship with one of my Dad’s favorite places – Capellini’s. I bring you…. The Big Test. If I can find something to eat here, we can dine out as a family again (yes, we only go to one restaurant in town). Ante up.

After cruising about town today, my Dad asked if I’d like to get lunch. We haven’t had a meal out together in a few months, so I thought hard about potentials and decided to go for the big one. Capellini’s is a small Italian restaurant in Tewksbury which seats roughly thirty patrons. The food is delicious and the servers are very friendly. I have a handful of favorite non-vegan items on the menu, but my first time going in there since I’ve been vegan, I was pretty skeptical that I would any vegan-friendly notable things to eat. I’ve fallen back on salad many times in these situations, often with nothing more than lettuce and, if I’m lucky, two or three baby tomatoes. I thought today was going to be another salad day. Surprise! It was. But! It was a mighty tasty little plate.

The Spinach Salad is so accurately named. It literally is a plate of spinach leaves, but they were incredibly fresh. It was topped with dried cranberries and accompanied by some adorable little dairy-free breadsticks. Add some ol’-reliable vinaigrette dressing, and I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable my lunch was. It wasn’t completely because I had low expectations from the start.

To most, this may seem like a basic, modest meal. And it is. I did think “pfft, I could buy a bag of Craisins and a package of fresh spinach and make this myself.” Truth be told, as simple as it is, I wouldn’t have thought of this dish on my own, so points for expanding my Fast Cheap and Vegan menu. (Hmm, a new blog category?)

What gets major points at Capellini’s was the friendly staff and how patient, accomodating, and sincere they were. When the bread and oil was brought to the table, I asked about the bread’s ingredients and our server let us know she was not sure and would go check. It turns out the bread was imported and they could not make any guarantees about its ingredients. When it came time to order our meals, the same server was very attentive and patient while I was asking about the pasta ingredients and requesting items be replaced or left off. I was very disappointed to find out none of their pasta was dairy-free, but it was more than made up for by the staff calling their suppliers to find out for sure. Plan B – Salad to the rescue. The server was even kind enough to make an extra trip out to let me know the original dressing on the salad had mayo in it.

Capellini’s salad was great and the staff’s hospitality stood out, but it left me wanting more. I wish they had more vegetarian and dairy-free options. I’m optimistic that their overall attitude may make them more likely to have more options in the future. Fingers crossed.

~ by Katherine Cota MacDonald on August 22, 2009.

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