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The hottest bar in Los Angeles? It’s in Eagle Rock, and it’s a retro Italian crowd-pleaser

The bustling interior of Capri Club.
(Capri Club)

Around a quarter to seven on a recent Wednesday evening at Capri Club, the sun had nearly set behind the apartment buildings across the street, and the changing light was creating microclimates in ambiance around the bar.

Up front, along the tables on the sidewalk and just inside the open picture window, the crowd still had the air of day-drinking: Most people sipped punch-red spritzes or Negroni slushes the color of orangesicles. At the room’s center, shadows had started inching along the semicircular bar and the two dozen people gathered around it; only half of them were lucky or aggressive enough to grab one of 12 stools. Here the workday felt definitively over. It was happy-hour time.

Dusk had already reached the bar’s farthest corner — the one with the most coveted of the four leather booths, where the wood paneling meets a wall mural depicting a mountainous curve of the Italian coastline. I stood close by with five or six others in the near dark, waiting to order drinks and looking out toward the street. The patio misting system was going full-blast, and it turned the view of the cityscape beyond into a bright, watery blur. The scene could have been anywhere in the world.

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Out the door with a gin martini in one hand and a watermelon spritz in the other, the mirage evaporated: I was back in the crush of Capri Club’s nightly street party on a mixed commercial-residential block along a wide, busy stretch of Eagle Rock Boulevard.

The surrounding scenery might not be picturesque, but in June, when owner Robert Fleming reopened an almost-60-year-old space that housed the former Italian restaurant Capri — he put up a sign that says “Since 1963” in winking quotes — he launched what has become L.A.’s destination bar of 2022.

Two cocktails on an outdoor table
Capri Club’s gin martini and watermelon spritz.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

What gave it such instant magnetism? A knowing mix of the sort of new-but-retro-cool that appeals to Angelenos, coupled with the right timing: We simply want to hang somewhere exactly like this. L.A. has great bars of all kinds, but not a glut of them. This has always been a town with a complex relationship to its bar culture, given its size, the emphasis on driving and the time and thousands of dollars it takes to obtain a liquor license, for starters.

When I think back on the most sublime cocktails I’ve had this summer, most were in restaurants, where our star bartenders often thrive and where drinking is part of the whole “night out” experience. I’m remembering Jason Lee’s Suika cocktail at n/soto, where he freezes watermelon juice and shaves it over tart umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur), Gentian amaro and citrus using a kakigori ice shaver. I noticed clarified milk punch having a moment in the city: Kato bar director Austin Hennelly makes the best one, a blend of Cognac, bourbon and rum with brown butter and boniato, two ingredients that cleverly nod to one of chef Jon Yao’s first signature desserts.

At Causita, the winner was the Girl From Lobitos — cachaça, Oaxacan rum, vermouth, passion fruit, ginger, lime juice and shiso foam, resembling a green smoothie but far in taste from any juice bar cliché. There was the tequila-spiked cherry limeade at Saffy’s and the perfect gin martini at Bar Moruno (which I’d argue is more restaurant than bar) that Dave Kupchinsky made from a stronger formula of Beefeater he stockpiled before it was discontinued.

Like many other new adherents, this summer Capri Club joined my shortlist of favorite actual bars, which includes Thunderbolt in Echo Park, Everson Royce Bar in downtown’s Arts District and Genever on Beverly Boulevard in Westlake. I’ve learned to show up early in the evening at Capri Club if I want any hope of finding a seat; anytime later than 7:30 p.m. and I resign myself to claiming a spare sliver of wall to lean against.

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For the broadly Italian drink menu, beverage director Nic Vascocu and head bartender Patricia St. Peter zero in on spritzes and other lighter cocktails appropriate for aperitivo. The intricate watermelon spritz — with vodka, lime juice and prosecco joining watermelon juice and liqueur — particularly helped stave off the recent brutal heat. Fleming says the drink is soon being retired for the season and will be replaced by a boozy version of a Shirley Temple. There is always a classic, properly balanced Negroni.

Francesco Allegro consulted on a menu of nibbles. His main gig is as a pasta whiz at Rossoblu; the variations on fried pasta he created for Capri Club sometimes end up on the doughy side, but otherwise dive in to easygoing arancini, eggplant parm, meatballs in sugo and smoked tuna with burrata. Plates are small and only make the lightest of meals; plan for a full dinner elsewhere.

A spread of Italian-inspired snacks at Capri Club in Eagle Rock.
(Bill Addison / Los Angeles Times)

The array of amari, served in forms that include bracing 50/50 shots of Fernet-Branca and Branca Menta, make me long for Capri Club to be calm enough to serve as a wind-down stop after dinner. Maybe when the summer crowds subside? Doubtful, and it’s fine. The place deserves its success.

Capri Club: 4604 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, (707) 337-0170, capriclublosangeles.com

The 2022 L.A. Times Food Bowl is in full swing

The L.A. Times Food Bowl is in full swing, with events throughout the rest of the month. Tickets remain for a collaborative dinner with Koreatown’s Kinn and chef Kevin Lee; a four-course tasting menu of Mexican dishes paired with agave spirits, curated by Nativo’s Corissa Hernandez and Todo Verde’s chef Jocelyn Ramirez; and, of course, the Food Bowl’s three-evening Night Market event.

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— The review this week focuses on Saffy’s in East Hollywood, which I mentioned above for its cocktails. It’s the third restaurant from Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis, and it’s predictably fantastic. Start with the hummus with Lebanese pine nuts (their origin is important, I promise).

— On the latest episode of “The Bucket List: Dumplings,” Jenn Harris learns about Japanese gyoza — both how to make them and who serves her favorites across L.A.

— Jenn also gives us a first report on the new L.A. location of Pizzeria Bianco, and the memories conjured by Chris Bianco’s masterful Rosa pizza.

Stephanie Breijo has the report on All Day Baby’s new “Latin-tinged Vietnamese” dinner pop-up Tet-a-Tet, a bricks-and-mortar home in Hollywood for breakfast-burrito ace Lowkey Burritos, and other recent openings.

A bartender prepares cocktails at a bar.
Grayson Hestir prepares cocktails at Saffy’s in East Hollywood.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)


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