Forty-four years is a long time to be slinging food under any circumstances, never mind the circumstances that surround Sag Harbor, which, despite growing popularity of late, still remains, in many respects, a seasonal town. And yet, the Tagliasacchi family, owners of Italian staple Il Capuccino, has managed to survive through both good times and bad, through the economically rocky 1970s (the restaurant opened in 1974), and market crashes that marked the 1980s, 1990s, and mid-2000s.
The menu, Jack Achille Tagliasacchi will tell you, began small, featuring no more than a handful of menu items, reflecting an equally small kitchen. The restaurant’s footprint, however, has since expanded, and so has the menu. “Originally, I always wanted to open up a small Italian restaurant, and when this was available — because, at that time, it was closed — I bought the building,” Tagliasacchi said. “And I started with a very small menu. It became popular very quick. We always enjoy the cooking, and I think, basically, that it was the reason of the success.” In 1981, Tagliasacchi was joined by chef James “Jimbo” Renner. The pair began working together at Sag Harbor’s Baron’s Cove Inn in the mid-1970s, and, after a short break, Renner followed Tagliasacchi to Il Capuccino. Chef Renner has run the kitchen ever since.
Nearly two decades after opening, Tagliasacchi bought an adjacent building, allowing him to expand his kitchen and dining room. On the expanded menu, diners can now choose between appetizers, salad (its own category, to be clear), sea- and land-faring entrees, about a dozen different pasta selections, sides, and, of course, desserts. The wine list remains fairly limited, though it does represent international breadth; in addition to Italian selections, one will find wines from California, Australia, and France.
“I started with a very small kitchen and a small dining room,” Tagliasacchi said. “The menu got larger and larger through the year, but, basically, it has always been the same, and we keep maintaining the same menu. Because we have such repeated business, every week or 10 days, we run a chef’s special, to always offer something new to our customers. Through the years, because of the demand of the guests, we have amplified our offer[ing] of seafood. We go a little bit with the mood of the moment.”
Tagliasacchi was born in Northern Italy, in Parma, home to that iconic Italian cheese. He worked, for a time, at a culinary apprenticeship, spending formative foodie years in France, Switzerland, and Italy before decamping to Argentina where, in 1954, he opened his first restaurant. Soon after, he emigrated to the United States. His varied culinary career included a restaurant ownership in Miami, an executive chef gig in Florida, and, finally, ownership of Baron’s Cove Inn. Arriving on Long Island in 1963, ultimately, he never left. Taking advantage of the poor economy — the village, at the time, was peppered with boarded storefronts — Tagliasacchi, forward-thinker, bought a Madison Street space in 1970, an investment that has certainly paid dividends over the years.
When Tagliasacchi purchased the Sag Harbor property that would eventually house his restaurant, he envisioned a family business. Years later, his vision for a thriving family business in Sag Harbor remains intact — his eldest daughter, Amber Tagliasacchi-Miller, is now the restaurant’s general manager (as well as weekend bartender), recalling a family tradition that Jack Tagliasacchi holds dear. His own restaurant career began in 1946, when, at 16, he went to work for an uncle’s Italian restaurant. Amber joined her father over two decades ago, and has been managing the space for 18 years. “She started working with me, helping me out, and then she became manager,” Tagliasacchi said of his daughter. “Eighteen years. I guess time goes fast.”
In those intervening years, Tagliasacchi-Miller has added her own touches to the restaurant. Two years ago, she and her husband, Andrew Miller, redesigned the restaurant’s service bar, which now boasts keg lines, in addition to ample seating for those looking to dine at the bar. There is a sense of community — of family, really — inherent at Il Capuccino. The restaurant is an honest interpretation of Italian food, and a place where locals can indulge in a meal that brings comfort, nuance, and familiarity.
Il Capuccino is located at 30 Madison Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit ilcaps.com.