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Caruso’s may be gone, but the melody lingers.


arrisburg’s restaurant scene has changed so much in recent years. Te places we considered “landmarks” in the city are gone: the Maverick (great steaks and a

lobster fest in June), Italian classics at Lombardo’s (seafood fra diablo), the Esquire Room in the old Penn Harris (great burgers), and Santanna’s on 2nd Street with the fish tank at the door and hard shell crabs by the bushel. We have new places to love now: Carley’s and

Stock’s; Mangia Qui and Char’s; Café Fresco and Home 231; Bricco and El Sol; and many wonderful casual spots like the Federal Taphouse, Arepa City, Pastorante, Alvaro and Crawdaddy’s. But driving on Chestnut Street in downtown Harrisburg always brings back memories of a little bistro that was very dear to my heart. Many years are gone since Dennis and Terry Snyder opened Caruso’s not far from the train station near what now is Bricco. It was a tiny place with a front- facing window,

forest green walls decked with

Italian art, and, on weekdays, the sounds of opera softly playing in the background. Caruso’s smelled like an Italian restaurant should smell, in my view: of olive oil and garlic. It was the early ‘80s, and our children were very little back then. When my family could babysit, we would sneak out to Caruso’s for a late dinner, usually on a Saturday night. Te little bistro was always bustling and, on weekends, Carl Iba, violinist for the Harrisburg Symphony, would stroll and play all night. I can never hear music from “Fiddler on the Roof” without thinking of him. Te food was wonderful: homemade pasta, fresh fish from Baltimore, chicken and meat dishes, all prepared in classic Mediterranean style. Terry made all the desserts herself. Her specialty was zuccotto, a chilled cake, brandy, chocolate and cream dessert prepared in a rounded mold. It was always on the menu. Lacrima Christi and Cortese di Gavi were always available for perfect wine accompaniments. I still remember my first meal at Caruso’s:

homemade spinach fettuccine with gorgonzola cream sauce and chicken with vinegar peppers. It was delightful. And, after that, we were regulars.

For this month’s column and as a tribute to

Caruso’s, I searched and searched for a recipe for chicken with vinegar peppers to share with TeBurg readers that was reminiscent of that first meal. I found a recipe by Bobby Flay called “Chicken and Peppers in Balsamic Vinegar Sauce” and decided to give it a try:


• Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over moderately high heat (I used my cast iron Le Creuset) until it shimmers.

• Pat dry 8 chicken thighs (bone in or boneless) with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Brown the thighs in batches (give them room!) until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove each batch to a clean plate until the others are done and before adding the peppers.

• Cut 3 bell peppers (I used red, yellow and green) into thin strips and add to the casserole. Cook the peppers about 5 minutes until slightly soft. (August is a great month for peppers.)

• Add 4 cloves chopped garlic and toss with the peppers about 1 minute.

• Then add 1 tablespoon tomato paste and cook for another minute, working the paste through the pepper mixture.

• Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar (I used a good white balsamic) and cook the pepper mixture until the vinegar is reduced by half.

• Add 2 tablespoons honey and a cup of low sodium chicken broth and cook for 5 minutes more. Te heat should still be moderately high.

• Return the chicken to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cover the lid. Simmer the chicken

until completely

through (at least 30 minutes) and then remove the lid.

• Remove the chicken to a platter and then boil down the sauce a little to thicken.

• Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley.

We loved this dish. I served it with rice for him

and creamy mashed Yukon gold potatoes for me. Sliced summer tomatoes with chopped basil would be a nice accompaniment to the chicken, along with chilled melon slices. Now, as a matter of full disclosure, this dish was very different from my first cherished entree at Caruso’s. (I will have to keep searching.) But writing this column brought back wonderful memories of that special place. Here’s to a little restaurant on Chestnut Street that was decades ahead of its time. Salute!

08.14 | THE BURG | 37 cooked

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