“Old traditional Italian family-served food” is what you’ll find at Casa Capri, according to Hondo Stella, one of the restaurant’s operators. Located at 2129 Birch Road, not far from Carthage College and UW-Parkside, the business officially began in 1954. Yet its recipes go further back - to the early 1900’s.
Fine Italian-American dining and personalized service is offered at Casa Capri, a third generation business. Louis Stella started the family business in 1954. His son and grandson, both named Louis, who go by Butch and Hondo, respectively, now run the business with Hondo’s sister Anna. Authentic Italian recipes cover the whole of Italy. From Northern Italy (where it began) to the beautiful island of Sicily, the best of the best, including homemade ingredients, can be expected from the family’s kitchen.
The restaurant’s original menu came from family recipes – the recipes of Hondo’s great-grandmother Louise Stella in the early 1900’s. Her son Louis opened Casa Capri in 1954, and started with pizza. Louise would make bread in her kitchen and with the leftover pieces she started to make pizzas. To this day, Casa Capri keeps their pizza traditional Hondo says, with sausage, pepperoni, and various vegetables. They make their own sausage.
The menu grew from 15 to now over 80 entrée items. In the early 90’s the menu was greatly updated. Sautee chicken, veal, and seafood were added. The menu changed as the times changed, and more food became available to them, Hondo says. He believes there has to be something for everyone on the current menu, including pasta without meat sauce for vegetarians. Appetizers; pasta specialties; sandwiches; steaks & chops; chicken; veal specialties; seafood including a half dozen different shrimp dishes, pan fried blue gills, and fresh lake perch; and of course, pizza are offered. The full menu is available to view online. They try to accommodate different health requests. For instance, those with lactose issues can have a white pizza. This has a crust, olive oil, and any requested vegetables. There is no cheese.
On the weekends, in addition to the full menu, eight to ten specials are available. Over the course of time, some specials will become menu items. Two appetizers became so popular, they are now menu mainstays: stuffed jalepeno peppers and Hondo’s stuffed mushrooms. The latter were first created for a holiday party, and never left the offerings. Desserts will vary, with cannoli, tiramisu, and cheesecakes usually offered.
The signature pasta dish at Casa Capri is the baked stuffed rigatoni. It is joined by other old time favorites, the original family recipes. These include Ma Rose’s favorite stuffed shells, homemade ravioli, gnocchi, Anna’s homemade baked lasagna, and cheese stuffed tortelloni.
12 and 16-inch pizzas are served, with a 20 inch, party size available by request. Last year, Casa Capri made 120 16-inch pizzas, one for each player to eat on the bus after a Carthage College football game. Hondo says, “I’m always up to a challenge.” Carthage played Concordia University from Milwaukee. The Concordia coach used to be a coach at Carthage. He told his team whatever happened in the game, they would get the best pizza after. It’s not uncommon for buses in town for games at Carthage or Parkside to pull into the parking lot.
Frozen pizzas will travel with “snowbirds” who head south in the winter. Hondo says these customers want the family to open a second restaurant in Florida. When they return to Kenosha in the spring, once they’re approaching on the interstate, or have landed back in Wisconsin at the airport, they will call and place their pizza order. Hondo says it’s a fact that there are enough good family owned pizzerias in Kenosha, that the chains don’t do as well here as in other markets.
The restaurant is handicapped accessible. Reservations are accepted. A children’s menu is available, as are carryout, delivery, and gift cards. There is a bar/lounge, and outdoor dining on a seasonal patio. The main dining room features a waterfall, while a fireplace is in the cozy bar/lounge area. Casa Capri started offering a rewards program this spring: points are earned per dollar spent, and at different levels points can be redeemed for discounts. An ATM machine is on site, and most major credit cards are accepted.
The restaurant is open Wed.-Sun. 4 p.m. to close. However, it will open outside those hours for private parties. A banquet room holds 20 to 150 people for weddings, rehearsal dinners, bridal showers, baby showers, anniversaries, graduations, award banquets, funeral luncheons, seminars, and the like. Off-site catering is also available. As with the banquet menu, Casa Capri is willing to customize a menu to meet the customer’s catering needs.
“We’re a family run business, so we definitely enjoy the family here,” Hondo says. The restaurant is appropriate for a family of four stopping in to have pizza, or for a couple to celebrate their anniversary with a special dinner of steaks or seafood. The ambiance is family casual, made so any customer will feel a part of the Stella family. He says at some places, one can feel like a number or a table turned over. But not at Casa Capri. There, he’s determined to offer the personal touch, to say “Hi” to his customers, call them by name, and ask how their meal was. “We work for you (the customer),” he says. Without the customers, they wouldn’t have a business.
Casa Capri supports its community at various events. The restaurant is a regular participant at the Pride of Kenosha Gourmet Food & Wine Tasting each November, to support the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha. It also has participated in the Kenosha History Center Chili Cook-off, held each October. Casa Capri also offers cross-promotions with other local businesses, and offers gift certificates on restaurant.com. At the restaurant, Easter and Mother’s Day brunches are annually held. They have just started hosted wine tasting events.
Casa Capri is a partner of the KACVB because Hondo likes the Kenosha Area Visitors Guide, and that locally owned, “mom and pop” businesses are listed together in the dining section. He also wanted to catch visitors when they first come to town, out at our I-94 Visitor Information Center, and draw attention his way, on the far northeast side of Kenosha. He also understands the value of tourism, as he serves many athletes on triathlon weekends. Pasta is big with athletes, and the restaurant will see anywhere from 40 to 75 participants and their families the night before the race. Thanks to word of mouth, that number has grown from the 10 to 12 they used to see when the triathlons first started here. One group from Green Bay always requests the patio, he says.
When the restaurant first opened in 1954, it was located on the south side of Kenosha, on Sheridan Road. In 1970, Casa Capri moved to its current location, where Birch Road meets 22nd Avenue. In 1984, the current building opened. Recently, a couple from Oregon stopped in. They had moved out of town in 1970, and had heard there was still a Casa Capri in town. They used to dine at the restaurant when it was on Sheridan Road. They stopped to see if it was the same business, and if the grapevines still hang above (they do). Eating at Casa Capri on this return visit to Kenosha made their trip!
It can make your trip as well! Stop by, and let the Stella family welcome you into their family!
For more information: (262) 551-7171, www.casacapri.com