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Home / Articles / Food / Restaurant Reviews /  Tipica restaurant
Restaurant Reviews

Tipica restaurant

Tipica at Caputo's: Deli by day, fine dining by night

By Ted Scheffler
Posted // August 5,2009 -

Along with Pago restaurant across town, the biggest buzz among Salt Lake City’s dining glitterati this summer has been about Tipica. This is the long-anticipated restaurant project launched by Tony Caputo and his son, Matt (although Tony claims he’s “retired”), along with wunderchef Adam Kreisel.

Here’s what happens: By day, Tony Caputo’s Market & Deli is an informal, cafeteria- style spot to fill up on meatball subs, eggplant Parmesan and savory salads such as the Vanocur. At night—Wednesdays through Saturdays—the Caputo’s deli space morphs into a fine-dining restaurant. Gold-colored curtains are drawn to redefine the space and create intimacy; white tablecloths cover the tables; tealight candles and fresh flowers appear, along with sleekly designed salt & pepper shakers and fine stemware. A staff of black and white-clad service pros patrols the dining room. Wine and beer is poured. Magically, a deli is transformed into a restaurant. But, don’t go looking for Caputo’s lunchtime muffaletta on the menu.

I inadvertently created a firestorm of a controversy when I previewed Tipica in the Salt Blog a while back. Billed as a “nose to tail” restaurant, the idea is that if you see, for example, lamb chops on the menu, Chef Adam Kreisel hasn’t merely purchased chops from his meat supplier, but acquired the entire lamb from Lau Family Farms, which he will use, from nose to tail, eventually.

There seems to be a lot of sectarianism and holier-than-thou-ing going on when it comes to this nose-to-tail business. People are radically opinionated about it: “They don’t use the snout!” one person might proclaim. Well, Matt Caputo invites interested parties to come and take a peek inside the fridges and freezers at Tipica if you need to be convinced they’re using the entire beast.

Frankly, I couldn’t give a damn either way. I care most about the food on my plate. When I order the roasted marrow bone and pickled beef tongue with frisée and lemontruffle vinaigrette ($11), I don’t really care if the rest of the cow is in the fridge; what matters to me is that it tastes spectacular. And, thus far, I’ve found very little at Tipica that didn’t taste spectacular

I’m not surprised, though. I’ve followed Kreisel from his turquoise-and-fuchsiacolored muttonchop days at The Globe Café by Moonlight (which simply arrived on the Salt Lake City scene way ahead of its time) to Sundance Resort, Metropolitan and Acme Burger Company. At every stop along the way, he has, at times, made my head spin. Finally, he has the freedom and the support to cook the way he really wants to cook. And we, luckily, are the recipients of that freedom, expertise and creativity.

It takes a very talented chef to get me to like cauliflower, but Kreisel did it. Mostly, I don’t usually like cauliflower because it’s boring, but I also don’t like it because it looks like brains. For the same reason, I’m not fond of whole walnuts, either. (Oddly, cooked brains don’t look like brains, which is why I still miss the breakfast brains at Bill & Nada’s.)

“I treat it like meat,” says Kreisel about his technique for cooking cauliflower. He takes big, brainy-looking hunks of cauliflower and sears the bejeezus out of them, before roasting. The end result is tender, almost meaty-tasting cauliflower with a beautifully browned crust, infused with grape must and garnished with a chiffonade of micro basil ($5). I defy you to find a better use of cauliflower.

Farm-fresh and local ingredients abound in Tipica dishes, from the local baby arugula salad and the English peas accompanying the smoked pork shank ($15) to the sunchokes in the roasted shallot and sunchoke soup ($6) and porcinis used in the beef ragout. That last dish—Piedmontese beef and porcini ragout ($17)—is a hearty dish that would seem more apt in winter. But I loved every single bite on a hot, steamy summer’s evening. It’s a robust, rich dish of braised and shredded tender beef (from Larson’s Piedmontese steer) with minced porcinis—a beef and porcini “Bolognese,” if you will—served on thick strips of homemade rosemary papparedelle pasta. Can you say, “Lick the plate clean?”

When I asked our server to recommend a wine pairing for the ragout, she was refreshingly honest: “I don’t really know anything about wine, but I’ll ask,” she replied. A few minutes later, Kreisel popped out from the kitchen to recommend ’63 Cheval Blanc. “Are you buying?” I think was my response. Well, you won’t find Cheval Blanc on the Tipica wine list, but there is a very good selection of eclectic wines that perfectly match the Tipica fare, including the glass of Aia Vecchia Lagone Rosso ($8.50/glass), which a very winesavvy server, Mike Webb, recommended.

So many delicious dishes and so little space to write about them: Thick, chewy bucatini with arugula and tarragon pesto was creamy and delightful, enhanced with 3-year-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and edible flowers. Ridiculously good risottos I’ve tasted include Kreisel’s lamb sweetbread and celery risotto, and his seafood and baby tomato Carnaroli risotto with lump crabmeat and rock shrimp. I could go on and on.

With the possible exception of the noise when it’s crowded (and it always seems to be crowded), I can’t think of any reasons not to encourage you to go and try Tipica for yourself. Even the prices are relatively low, which is far from typical.

TIPICA
314 W. 300 South
801-328-0222
TipicaCaputo.com


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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // September 22,2009 at 21:08 It is regrettable to see that self labeled restaurateurs like mister Caputo cannot take a critique and have to go play the martyr in the eyes of the readers of a free publication.... They have to call in their friends to rescue them from acerb, yet justified criticism.... They turn my original post into an endless debate, yet worse, a circle jerk off party to the glory of Tipica.... And guess, dear readers who are the actors involved in that gastronomique circle jerk off??? They're none other than Ted Scheffler,Matt himself, his chef Adam and Francis the wine guy who also moonlights as a writer for the city weekly!!!! Talk about objectivity!!!!

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 18,2009 at 13:13

While dining at Tipica recently I was shocked and insulted to find that they don't have salt and pepper shakers on the tables! I certainly wish Mr. Ted had notified me of this in his 'critical review' of Tipica. Amazing that he overlooked this - who do these guys think they are, Charlie Trotter???

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 10,2009 at 17:02

Tipica is incredible! The food is excellent! Our server was great! Salt Lake is very fortunate to have the Caputo's market, deli and the Tipica restaurant. Tipica is very well done and adds great dimension to this city of mostly chain restaurants and bland food. I would highly recommend this great dining experience to anyone. Kudos to the Caputo's for taking the risk and doing something different. I wish them much success and will continue to support them.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 7,2009 at 10:56

So, let me get this straight -- when a restaurant opens up, whether it be Tipica or Pago or Forage and they say that they're about using seasonal, local stuff to the best of their ability they get crucified for being wannabes and posers?

Brilliant. Aboslutely brilliant. Let's cut down the bona fide efforts of some new blokes who are adding to the small core of venues who have been trying to put this style of consumption and cooking into practice. God forbid, we have more restaurants like Paris Bistro or Pizzeria 712 that gives a shit about flavor and integrity, because you know, that would just be WRONG. How dare these guys try to join in?

Has anyone even bothered to ask any of the ranchers or farmers who actually work with these restaurants what they're selling to the kitchens? Or what sort of working relationship they have with these restaurants?

All the haters who insist on comparing what Salt Lake has barely got going (and by that I mean in the last decade, Paris Bistro et al included) to the more established scenes in San Francisco, NYC and Portland are as bad as the close-minded diners who refuse to eat meat cooked any degree below well-done. What gives? You can diss it for not liking the flavors, but to diss it because they're trying to do something that is working in other cities and because they seem to genuinely dig food is kind of baffling. Where's all this pitchforking for the restaurants in this town at the same price points (if not higher) that lie through their teeth about the things they use in their kitchen? Seriously, if greenwashing is everyone's problem, let's focus on some other businesses that are SO guilty of it.

Ten years ago, Portland was NOTHING what it's like today restaurant-wise. And believe it or not, San Francisco, London, Dublin and even New York weren't always the holy lands of microgreens and pig's trotters. I'll even pull that obnoxious "I've lived/eaten everywhere in the world" card to say that yeah, SLC has a long way to go. At the same token, I'll pull that same lame card to get a chance to say that in the past few years, SLC has made some remarkable progress. I've had some mind-blowing meals in New York, Italy, San Francisco and ... yes, SLC. And I've had some spectacularly shitty ones in all the same cities. it's one thing to miss a certain restaurant or dish, but it's another to compare a place like SLC that's still on the threshold of good things to places that are already THERE in terms of having the network of growers and producers who can supply them year round. Do you think New York State has a huge growing season? Have you ever experienced winter in the Hudson Valley?! Please.

When the demand is there, more producers will eventually appear, which gives these guys and others (who have yet to jump into the fray) a chance to showcase what's so good about local -- eating and doing business. Did the guys at Higgin's in Portland always have it so easy with getting all the gorgeous stuff from farmers? Hardly. Or did Heston Blumenthal always have it so easy sourcing and selling braised pig tails? These guys are trailblazers for a reason -- they carved something out of relatively little and did shit that people thought were nuts and stupid. And here we lambast the people who have the same dreams.

If folks seriously want less to complain about in this city's dining scene, consider letting go the petty bickering retarding the momentum of the passionate folks (like Tipica, Pago, Paris, Lugano) who sweat it out for relatively little pay and the people who have their livelihoods invested in this sort of thing. The vitriol is better aimed at those bloody "McCafe's" and caricatures of cuisines that we're surrounded by.

 

Posted // August 7,2009 at 11:48 - Well spoken, Wasabi. If I might make an observation: The restaurateurs/restaurants whose names have been thrown around in this comment string (Paris, Pago, Pizzeria 712, Tipica, Lugano, etc.) are not the ones spewing vitriol. Most of those restaurateurs are friends with one another. It's a tiny segment of their sectarian followers, fans and groupies who don't seem to "get it." Shouldn't we applaud EVERY attempt at nose-to-tail and the usage of farm fresh, organic products and innovative cuisine? Can there only be ONE holy restaurant in town? I say, the more the merrier. Stop bickering and go out and enjoy a great meal at one of Utah's MANY unique, independent restaurants.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 7,2009 at 10:45

So, let me get this straight -- when a restaurant opens up, whether it be Tipica or Pago or Forage and they say that they're about using seasonal, local stuff to the best of their ability they get crucified for being wannabes and posers?

Brilliant. Aboslutely brilliant. Let's cut down the bona fide efforts of some new blokes who are adding to the small core of venues who have been trying to put this style of consumption and cooking into practice. God forbid, we have more restaurants like Paris Bistro or Pizzeria 712 that gives a shit about flavor and integrity, because you know, that would just be WRONG. How dare these guys try to join in?

Has anyone even bothered to ask any of the ranchers or farmers who actually work with these restaurants what they're selling to the kitchens? Or what sort of working relationship they have with these restaurants?

All the haters who insist on comparing what Salt Lake has barely got going (and by that I mean in the last decade, Paris Bistro et al included) to the more established scenes in San Francisco, NYC and Portland are as bad as the close-minded diners who refuse to eat meat cooked any degree below well-done. What gives? You can diss it for not liking the flavors, but to diss it because they're trying to do something that is working in other cities and because they seem to genuinely dig food is kind of baffling. Where's all this pitchforking for the restaurants in this town at the same price points (if not higher) that lie through their teeth about the things they use in their kitchen? Seriously, if greenwashing is everyone's problem, let's focus on some other businesses that are SO guilty of it.

Ten years ago, Portland was NOTHING what it's like today restaurant-wise. And believe it or not, San Francisco, London, Dublin and even New York weren't always the holy lands of microgreens and pig's trotters. I'll even pull that obnoxious "I've lived/eaten everywhere in the world" card to say that yeah, SLC has a long way to go. At the same token, I'll pull that same lame card to get a chance to say that in the past few years, SLC has made some remarkable progress. I've had some mind-blowing meals in New York, Italy, San Francisco and ... yes, SLC. And I've had some spectacularly shitty ones in all the same cities. it's one thing to miss a certain restaurant or dish, but it's another to compare a place like SLC that's still on the threshold of good things to places that are already THERE in terms of having the network of growers and producers who can supply them year round. Do you think New York State has a huge growing season? Have you ever experienced winter in the Hudson Valley?! Please.

When the demand is there, more producers will eventually appear, which gives these guys and others (who have yet to jump into the fray) a chance to showcase what's so good about local -- eating and doing business. Did the guys at Higgin's in Portland always have it so easy with getting all the gorgeous stuff from farmers? Hardly. Or did Heston Blumenthal always have it so easy sourcing and selling braised pig tails? These guys are trailblazers for a reason -- they carved something out of relatively little and did shit that people thought were nuts and stupid. And here we lambast the people who have the same dreams.

If folks seriously want less to complain about in this city's dining scene, consider letting go the petty bickering retarding the momentum of the passionate folks (like Tipica, Pago, Paris, Lugano) who sweat it out for relatively little pay and the people who have their livelihoods invested in this sort of thing. The vitriol is better aimed at those bloody "McCafe's" and caricatures of cuisines that we're surrounded by.

 

 
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