Capo’s Bottega Ristorante Italiano – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Capo's in Bernalillo
Capo’s in Bernalillo

Fifty years ago when Frank Venaglia opened the first of his family of Capo’s restaurants in Albuquerque, the Italian term “capo” didn’thave quite the notoriety it does today thanks to countless Mafia movies and the Sopranos television series. In the Mafia, capo is a shortened term for “caporegime” or “capodecina” which essentially translate to a high-ranking family member of a crime family who is in charge of a crew of soldiers–a captain so to speak.

Today the Venaglia family owns and operates a family of four Italian restaurants-Capo’s Piazza (722 Lomas, N.E.) and Villa Di Capo (722 central, S.W.) in Albuquerque, Capo’s Corner (110 Pioneer Road) in Red River and the latest addition, Capo’s Bottega in Bernalillo. Another family venture, Capo’s Hideaway, also in Albuquerque, closed several years ago. The name “Capo’s” certainly does not imply any affiliation with the Mafia. Think of it more as implying “a captain among New Mexico’s Italian restaurants.”

The Bernalillo restaurant is in an idyllic setting despite its proximity to the garish Santa Ana Casino. Situated on the site of the former Milagro restaurant and microbrewery, it’s humdrum facade belies a beautiful exterior. Wood accents are prevalent throughout the restaurant. Climbing the wooden stairs to restaurant level, you’re immediately struck by the sheer size of several massive, knotted viga columns (at least six feet in circumference) throughout the restaurant. Wooden planked ceilings are supported by smaller beams off of which shelves serve as repositories for hundreds of beer bottles from all over the world.

A capacious east-facing patio provides a panoramic view of the magnificent Sandias and of Bernalillo’s Rio Grande lush bosque. On a crisp, clear day (and when the mosquitoes and gnats aren’t mercilessly harassing you) it’s a inspiringly romantic setting on which–weather permitting–musical accompaniment to your dining experience is provided on occasion. The ambiance certainly inspires reflection on la dolce vida (the good life), but ambience is only a small part of the dining experience.

Capo’s Bottega shares the same menu as its sister restaurants–a menu which offers a wide variety of tried and true Italian favorites showcasing sauces prepared daily in the kitchen. After several disappointing meals at the defunct Capo’s Hideaway, we knew what to expect. To quote from the review of Villa Di Capo by bloggers extraordinaire Eckleburg and Grumblecake of I8Route66 “the potential to be great, but slow service and so-so food make this place more tired than classic.”

In truth, Capo’s Bottega is much better than Capo’s Hideaway which was infamous for poor execution (friends tell me the chef should have been executed) in almost all facets of its operation. Still, savvy patrons who lament the dearth of truly outstanding Italian restaurants will lump this one among the other middling Italian dining establishments in which nothing is too bad, but nothing is too good either.

Dinner salads include the same old tired ingredients I imagine were available when Villa Di Capo opened in the 50s–iceberg lettuce, croutons, cucumbers and red onion. The salad dressings seemed watered down, a cardinal sin when “as much blue cheese as you can carry” is requested. There are few things as offensive as eating your salad with a spoon in order to sop up some of the dressing.

Lured by the promise of spiced sausage, we ordered the stuffed mushroom caps which the menu indicated were stuffed with spice sausage and topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Stuffed is the right word…or rather, stuffing is. The mushroom caps were stuffed with a breaded stuffing and nary a hint of spicy sausage.

The menu describes the Fettuccini Carbonara as “a perfect blend of ham, bacon and peas covered with Capo’s Alfredo sauce.” Great carbonara is almost sinfully rich and replete with freshly milled black pepper and pancetta (much more than just Italian bacon). Capo’s is not great carbonara. It is adequate and nothing more, lacking not only the pancetta and pepper savvy diners crave, but the creaminess that defines the sauce.

The saving grace may be Capo’s pizza, a medium-crust pie which you can have with your choice of ingredients. Call us gullible, but we were lured in again by the promise of “hot Italian sausage.” In this case, there was no false advertising. Capo’s uses some pretty spicy sausage on its pizza and the chile is even more piquant. To date, the pizza is the best entree we’ve ever enjoyed at a Capo’s restaurant.

We would have enjoyed the cannoli more had the ricotta not been so tooth-decaying sweet.

A visit to Capo’s Bottega delivers spectacular vistas and a pleasant ambience. It may not deliver all that you crave in an Italian meal, but few restaurants in New Mexico do that.

Capo’s Bottega
1016 W. Highway 44
Bernalillo, NM
LATEST VISIT: 15 September 2006
COST: $$

4 thoughts on “Capo’s Bottega Ristorante Italiano – Bernalillo, New Mexico (CLOSED)

  1. Alas, no not RE the Bottega! It was Villa di Capo that beckoned me Saturday eve (4/22/17) per it’s ’60s-’70s decor, cheerful WaitStaff, and basic Italien dishes and per my pledge to try to business a Local place on Route 66 in the face of the ART fiasco!
    Indeed, the iceberg as salad continues, but I give credit for it was not only crispy, but it is served in a bowl so I don’t have to chase wily leaves almost off a plate. Indeed there was a ring of purple onion, but there was also a slice of “white” cheese and pepperoni as embellishments…a sprinkle of diced anchovy would have been nice with a dash more Blue Cheese…but it was comfey and was served forthwith despite the place filling up fast. I liked the mini bread as well with soft butter.
    As it is lacking in so many places per PCness(?) in the last 20(?) years, I had the Veal Parmigiana. A fair size piece for my appetite, it had a nice breading, was not overly lost with marina, but with a slight spread of cheese, and tasted fine. (While fears from youth lurked in the background, I resisted urges to get the waitress’ reassurance as to it not being gristly; indeed, it had been appropriately pounded (sorry, the technical term eludes me)).
    Aha! an added treat! A couple of dozen teens chose Villa di Capo in spite(!) of its “old world charm” as their venue for Prom Night! Guys in their tuxes and Gals in their gowns with some doing slightly “bouffant” doos to match, exuded a certain amount of the special adolescent “energy” that added a special wonderment/nostalgia to dinning. Kudos to their sensible tastes!
    -While the Villa’s patio fronts 8th St., there’s a nice arbor effect to create a cosmopolitan, romantic setting for dining as well. While there is parking on Central, they have their own complimentary lot immediately adjacent off from 8th St.
    – Not trying to be argumentative, but RE Gil’s reflections herein: “After several disappointing meals at the defunct Capo’s Hideaway, we knew what to expect. To quote from the review of Villa Di Capo by bloggers extraordinaire Eckleburg and Grumblecake of I8Route66 “the potential to be great, but slow service and so-so food make this place more tired than classic. In truth, Capo’s Bottega is much better than Capo’s Hideaway which was infamous for poor execution (friends tell me the chef should have been executed) in almost all facets of its operation.”
    OMG! A memory of Capo’s Hide-a-way on 4th: It was just beyond the original Garduno’s known as Tortilla Flats. My only times were in the early ’90s. As such and like Villa, I enjoyed its ’60s-’70s ambiance, but this setting was for its gold, button-tufted, leather or was it that new vinyl, booths in a candle lit atmosphere. Eh, I was a Guest with my future In-Laws who, as part of the original Italien contingent to found Rio Rancho on the golf course, were, according to them, the real “Italien Thing” being from Connecticut! As such, who’s not going to accept that the dishes there were not L’assoluto migliore????! For me…and while I’ve noted not being a fan of a uni-dish….thought I enjoyed The Tortellini! LOL Eh, lest you question if the future F-i-L was finicky? He put down those brown paper wraps for ads in the AJ, in the foot wells of his Lincoln Continentals! Let us also remember, it was several years prior to Joe’s Pasta House!
    (RE the Bottega setting: It is so so sad if that building still lays vacant.)

  2. Gill,

    My wife tells me there is new signage at the old Capo’s location in Bernalillo: Ancient Spirits Bar and Grill

    Any info?

    1. Hi Bruce

      Ancient Spirits Bar & Grille has a Facebook page ( with pictures of the progress being made toward its opening in late February, 2013. The Facebook site indicates Ancient Spirits is a “Southwest Steakhouse including a bottleshop, entertainment, and near-future distillation. Join us for lunch or dinner or just a drink in the dining room or for the awesome view from the patio.” It will be open for lunch and dinner and will feature New American cuisine as well as Mexican food, sandwiches, seafood, Southern food, vegetarian offerings and steak. The Facebook page lists a contact ( and phone number (505-867-5331) for more information.


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