Catching up with the Capri Club

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Capri Club
The neon sign outside of the Capri Club in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 13, 2022. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental

Originally established in 1963, the Capri Club opened its renovated doors in June to much buzz. The Italian aperitivo bar and restaurant, decorated with vintage wooden panels and rufous booths, has been featured by Eater and the LA Times. The fare is a Southern California homage to La Dolce Vita, with a menu featuring crudo, caprese and cocktails in a relaxed ambiance.

The Capri Club, formerly known as simply Capri, was a traditional Italian restaurant originally opened by husband and wife Joe and Helen Sams. Robert Fleming purchased the restaurant from the family in 2019, transforming it into the more modern watering hole it is today.

Fleming said that revitalizing Capri Club took over two years. Though major changes were needed to redo the space and bring it up to code, he wanted to create a space that had elements of both the new and the old — including a shrine for the previous owners.

“I wanted to pay homage to the history of the space — there’s a lot of interesting history, and it’s been here for so long. But I also wanted to change it a little bit, keep some things the same and change some other things,” Fleming said. “So I changed the name to the Capri Club, and I turned it into an aperitivo bar.”

Capri Club
The Capri Club owner Robert Fleming smiles proudly at his bar in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 13, 2022. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental

According to Fleming, the original had been known early on as a place where people could connect under the same roof. Now, Fleming said he aims to keep the restaurant as true to that vision as possible.

“I built it as a social club, a place for the community to come and meet, and for people to meet their neighbors, and for those who are close and live around here [to interact],” Fleming said. “Luckily, that’s been the case. I built it as a meeting place for people to socialize, and get to know each other, and create new Eagle Rock history. And I get so many regulars and people from Eagle Rock that have been in the neighborhood for years.”

Will Lanstone* (senior), a repeat customer at the Capri Club, said that he experienced this firsthand in one of his visits.

“I ran into an older friend, which I didn’t expect to,” Lanstone said. “It was kind of cool to feel like it was a part of the world we could have both ended up in.”

Lanstone said that the environment in the restaurant is comfortable, and provides a nice atmosphere to socialize and relax.

“It’s quite some type of space. There were a few [seating areas] outside the building, but not many, so we actually ended up standing at the bar while the place opened up,” Lanstone said. “I had a feeling that it was a bit too small for what it was, but that made it kind of cozy in a way.”

In a review of the Capri Club, LA Times food critic Bill Addison wrote about his time at the establishment, and noted where it stands within the city’s bar scene.

“LA 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,” Addison wrote. “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.”

Capri Club
Some olive skewers hang out at the Capri Club in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 13, 2022. Angela Guglielmino/The Occidental

While the bar’s recent success has brought a lot of work on the business end, Fleming said he has been happy with the results so far.

“Running [the Capri Club], it’s a labor of love. And, you know, I do it because I love it. So while there have been some struggles, running it has been all highs,” Fleming said.

Fleming said he is also optimistic about the club’s future.

“One of my goals is longevity. I know a lot of people say that, but the business that we’ve built here is paying homage to the past and looking towards the future — I want to be here for another 60 years,” Fleming said. “Too many restaurants last for five years, and there’s so much development in Los Angeles and so much change. But I really have a goal to be here and put down some roots. I want the Capri to live on for as long as possible.”

*Will Lanstone is a former staff writer for The Occidental.