Food Interviews

Off-Menu Excitement at Cafe di Panni

Chef Steve Caputo experiments with Italian standards to create a menu that's always evolving

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Steve Caputo has been in the kitchen his entire life. Since taking the helm as executive chef at Café di Panni, he’s been able to expand his culinary horizons by dreaming up new dish after new dish. We sat down with him to learn more about his cooking inspirations, his favorite ingredients and the power of culinary freedom.

What initially sparked your interest in cooking?

My mother and grandmother taught me how to do stuff in the kitchen at a very young age, and my mother has always been a huge influence on my cooking. She’s the hardest worker in the world and is a really fussy person if things don’t come out right. She’s an honest critic.

Are there some ingredients you find yourself going back to time and time again?
As an Italian, I like to work with very good olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. I love fresh herbs and seasonings.

I hear you go off menu quite often. Why constantly change it up?

I run different specials every day. I don’t like to make the same thing over and over. God gave me a gift where I can invent dishes really quickly and easily. There are about 60 people in the state that know me who have their own personal dish. I try to mix it up and do different things to see what people like and dislike.

You offer an Italian buffet on Thursdays with constantly changing dishes. Describe some of the dishes you’ve included before.

I don’t want people to get bored. [Recently] we had baked scrod, smelt, calamari, chicken with sausage and peppers, shrimp, it just went on and on. Whatever I want to make, I make. I’m given the freedom to express myself. As long as you get the freedom to express yourself and show off your talent, your talent is going to shine. A lot of people don’t give you that. When you work at a franchise, for example, and have to cook the same stuff, your talents will never come out of you.

Do you have any future plans for new dishes?

We are coming out with a new menu soon that I’m very proud of. Some of the dishes on it include Pasta Lusiano (a pink vodka sauce topped with Mornay), Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Saltimbocca (sautéed in a garlic butter white wine sauce with mushrooms and topped with fresh sage, mozzarella and prosciutto).

What’s your absolute favorite part of being a chef?
My pleasure is making people happy. I don’t care if you’re a king or a peasant. When you walk in this door, my job is to please you. And I want you to feel like a king. If I find out what someone likes, I’m going to create something just for them. When I walk into the dining room, if there’s nothing on our menu you like, I will make you anything you want.

Café di Panni
187 Pocasset Avenue
944-0840