You don’t have to be Italian to visit Capo’s. But it helps.
At the very least, be sure you know the password. You’ll need it to get past the doorman. And if the thought of that doesn’t intimidate you, look closely at the outdoor signage.

We suggest you don’t ask about the bullet holes.

That’s just the start of the adventure you’ll find during a night out at either of Capo’s two locations in the Las Vegas area. The Tropicana location, which recently had a grand re-opening, features one main room with booth or table seating, a bar with swivel club bar stools, and a horse’s head in one corner. The Sahara location is similarly set up for the night life, complete with mafia and machine gun motif.

The theme is reflected in the décor, the staff and the menu. The extensive and creative specialty drink list, for example, features the Sucker Punch, the G-Man, and the Kick in the Head.

The menu has headings such as Bathtub Gin Soups, Syndicate Salads, and House Specialties You Can’t Refuse, which includes the Rat Pack Ribeye. The red and black décor combines with dim lighting and glittery silver candlelight to create the Al Capone-era ambiance.

Then there are the people. The Godfather is owner Nico Santucci.. The Maitre'd is his brother, Dominick Santucci. The chef is Jason Underworld . . . er, Underwood . . . who came to Capo’s after a stint on TV’s Hell’s Kitchen. The restaurant manager is Greggorio Luigi Make-Him-An-Offer-He-Can’t-Refuse Giomi.

It’s all part of the fun of Capo’s. ‘ We want people to feel taken away from modern Vegas,’ says Giomi. There is no gaming at Capo’s (of course, we can’t speak for what happens in the back room). There is, however, live jazz and food that brings in both the locals and the tourists for more. And, when the live music stops, taped memories from the Chairman of the Board himself waft through the dining spot.

We recommend starting with the Italian Wedding Soup. It’s the real deal, with a buttery flavor, tasty meatballs and Italian greens instead of spinach.

It goes nicely with Bogey’s Bruchetta that made us go ‘wow’ for its slight heat and fresh tomatoes.

Move on to one of his signature deep dish pizzas with fresh crushed tomatoes and a crispy wood-fired crust that makes you check twice to see if it’s deep dish or thin and crispy.

There is nothing bland here—just big flavors from the red peppers and Italian sausage. It’s the type of sensory experience you begin to expect at Capo’s, where everything is expansive.

Known for their pastas, we tried the The Gallows with Clams pasta that had a nice garlicky spice to it, and the Rigatoni Alla Vodka with shrimp. Oh, and the Bust a Cap mushroom caps were stuffed full with Italian ham, black olives, roasted peppers, bread crumbs and cheese, and packed a little heat.

For dessert, try Jimmy Two Times Tiramisu, or Dillinger’s Chocolate Covered Cannoli’s. Go ahead. Leave the gun. Take the cannoli’s.

Yes, Capo’s is a place for over-the-top experiences and extremes. On the one hand, there is the totally extravagant feel of a tight-knit Italian family. On the other, there are the quiet, tucked away, almost clandestine spots for dining. You can watch Goodfellas, with subtitles, or hold your own private conversation.

Nico Santucci, dressed in pin striped trousers and a wide necktie, says they come by the theme honestly. ‘My family was involved in less than desirable dealings,’ he says. He explains that ‘capo’ is Italian for ‘head,’ or, in Santucci’s world, ‘mob boss’ and adds, ‘This is our way of paying homage to the mob bosses in Vegas and Chicago.’ He has a second restaurant concept as well, the ‘Parisian Palace’ in Vegas, which he calls, ‘A get away for the rich and famous.’

Famous or not, Italian or not, Capo’s is the place to go to cut your deals, conduct your dubious business, meet your enemy for negotiations or throw downs, or simply have a nice dinner with your date. And if you don’t want to be recognized, it’s discreet enough for anything—even the menus come with a built in flashlight to keep the lights low. There is, however, the feeling that every mirror is two-way, that every framed photo hides a camera, and that any wall panel may slide open at any moment.

In other words, it’s the kind of bar where you can be yourself . . . or not.

Oh, and the password? Try ‘Food Channel.’ Ask for Giomi.

Visit Capo’s when you are in Las Vegas.

Article by AJ Leibling for The Food Channel