Caputo’s on the University of Utah campus

Story and slideshow by PARKER SCHLAF

When walking into the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building located near the center of the University of Utah campus, you are met with quiet tones and students hard at work. Rounding the corner of the lobby you start to get a whiff of Italian seasonings and warm rich coffee. Tucked right around that corner is the modern Italian deli counter of Caputo’s. A man at the counter looks up and shoots a smile to the next student in line.

Approaching the counter, the student next in line was met by an employee. After pondering the chalk-written menu, the customer approached the counter again and told him he would take a half of a Roasted Reds sandwich and a half portion of pasta salad. Simply nodding his head, the Caputo’s employee completed the order and hollered, “Half  a red and half pasta!” The student then stepped back and met with the other students waiting for their food to be prepared.

“Half of a red and half pasta salad!” gets shouted out over the counter by the man who took the order. Students were quickly being shuffled through the line, grabbing their food, selecting their drinks and heading off to find a table.

The Roasted Red sandwich, stuffed with roasted peppers, came in a deli basket lined with a classic red-and-white checkered paper. It was dressed with olive oil, Italian seasonings and other vegetable toppings. The pasta salad was accompanied by carrots, green peas, cauliflower, zucchini and then tossed in an olive oil and Italian seasoning. All of the ingredients used in this and other dishes at Caputo’s are either local or imported.

Sean Rorke, 27,  talked about working for the Caputo’s company and said it has been a great gig and that he loves it. He said, “Before working here, I worked for three years at the downtown location (located at 300 South and 300 West). Totally different ball game [here] than the downtown store.” He then talked about how he enjoyed working on a university campus versus another Caputo’s location. He said he preferred the faster workplace environment that the university location demanded and also the slight differences in the breakfast/lunch menu. Rorke did note that a nice additional benefit the university location offers is the break he gets for the weekends, as most of the campus is shut down from Friday evening until Monday morning.

“Better ingredients. I don’t even have to say anything else. We do a lot of local foods and whatever we don’t get locally, we import. We don’t skimp on any of our ingredients,” Rorke said, as he continued to talk about some of the benefits of eating at the Caputo’s on campus and why he thinks it would be beneficial for students to eat here compared to some of the other options. Rorke said Caputo’s is a perfect place to dine on campus, if you don’t already have a meal plan through the U and can afford to spend the extra dollar or two.

Tony Caputo has been running a successful locally-owned business for over 20 years. Having opened his first fresh market and deli in downtown Salt Lake City in 1997, his business has now grown into three other markets and delis spread over the Salt Lake Valley. The largest market he still owns and cares for is near his original deli and market located on 300 South and 300 West. Caputo added his most recent location to the U’s campus in 2008. Caputo recently cut back to working part time, he wrote on his blog, but he is still deeply involved in his company and local community.

Being a firm believer in providing only high quality ingredients to the local community, Tony Caputo has changed the fresh Italian market and deli scene of Salt Lake for the better. Joelle Bleiman, a 20-year-old student at the U, agreea. “It’s one of my favorite places to eat on campus when I want some real food!” Being the avid Caputo’s customer that she is, Bleiman also said the pasta with red sauce is the best thing to order.

Samantha Fox, a third-year student at the U, said, “I’m only 20. I love easy access to local foods with a decent price.” She then added how efficient the employees are. Compared to other quick stop options on campus, Caputo’s provides local and nutritious options for students. Having a Caputo’s location on the U’s campus is fortunate. Both Bleiman and Fox have been to other Caputo’s locations, but would agree the accessibility and all around “vibe” of the university location makes it the best one.