Caprice and Pun’kin PancakesPosted: October 27, 2011
Sometimes I am just lucky enough to meet people that make my day a little brighter. Caprice is just one of those people. And for the lucky people of Melrose, Massachusetts, she is an absolutely bright and shiny ray of sunshine, greeting them each and every morning over coffee, pancakes, corned beef hash and eggs florentine.
Melrose is a small town that sits in a valley north of the Mystic River, a mere 7 miles from Boston. A lovely waitress in Salem, lucky enough to have grown up in Melrose, told us we should check it out. She claimed it to be a little slice out of Americana pie. Well, yessir-e-bob it most certainly is – an extra wide piece of New England creme pie to be precise. Freshly painted homes with each a story all their own, white picket fences, perfectly manicured front yards, American flags and seasonal flowers planted with care.
We found ourselves in this New England creme pie town not once, but twice during a recent visit to the ‘Spirit of America’ state. Why? Because of a waitress named Caprice and pure carbohydrate bliss in the form of pumpkin pancakes, served up in a authentically non-descript location along a side street and facing the commuter train track to Boston.
The place is Cappa’s Track Side Kitchen. A quaint little family-owned joint, ran for over 15 years by the members of the Penachio family and gem in the crown of my breakfast dining experiences.
Cappa’s is the sort of place where the Nate Berkus Show blares on TV while both townspeople and visitors pack in like sardines to enjoy some breakfast grubbing and a some friendly service, the likes of which are most rare these days. While two generations of Penachio ladies are cooking and serving up simple family favorites.
At Cappa’s, it’s not about the flash, it’s all about the substance.
Looking for a vanilla latte in a white paper cup with a brown cardboard sleeve to protect your virgin skin? Well then take your happy ass elsewhere ’cause here ya get one option darlin’ – it’s drip, it’s served piping hot, and it’s in a mug that supports the brand that is local business.
Oh, and your brood can play a game of memory with single-serve packages of jam artfully sprinkled with cups of creamer while they wait for this breakfast feast. And better yet, no glaring faces, just smiles and winks.
But the real substance is delivered by the bucketload and with a smile by Caprice. She is the conductor of this track side kitchen symphony. She makes the place sing.
I watched as Caprice spread her sunshine like Irish churn-style butter on toasted marble rye. It was nice to watch a family work together to serve food that nourished both the body and soul of a town. She knew exactly what each person wanted who walked through the doors of Cappa’s. Perhaps even before they did.
For one man, it was an egg sandwich in his hands before he could get his wallet out of his pocket. Then there was a table of funeral directors in pressed black suits who enjoyed some grilled bagels and a police officer from nearby Malden. But for us, the outsiders, she said it had to be the pumpkin pancakes.
Did you hear me? I said pumpkin pancakes. Lookey here kids, I have acquired a horrific fear of carbohydrates since edging closer to middle age, but on this day, I dove head first into this blissful plate. They were like cartoon pancakes – big as a plate, slathered in just the right amount of butter and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. And the flavor – just the slightest hint of pumpkin pie. You see, couldn’t even get a picture when they were whole, only after the devouring.
Good call, Caprice. Good call.
So much a good call, that we drove the almost 15 miles round trip to have them again. Partly for the carbohydrate coma and partly because Caprice asked us to come back before we went back to Texas.
And so we did.
You see, like some, Caprice dreams of leaving her quaint little cream pie town. Perhaps to Danvers, perhaps further. She asked if she might hitch a ride in our suitcases to check out what life is like in Texas. Well, Caprice, for one, those would be called pun’kin pancakes.
My gut tells me that no matter where life takes Caprice, she will spread her special brand of sunshine. The track side kitchen would move on, the recipes would still get made, life would still go on. But, without her, the mornings in Melrose just wouldn’t be the same.