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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Restaurant review: Caper's Pizza Bar ***

Subs, submarines, grinders, heroes, hoagies, po' boys, rockets, torpedoes - call them what you will, they seem to have become all the rage in Toledo. Order them by the yard, foot, or half-foot, hot or cold, toasted or untoasted.

Everybody seems to be selling subs lately, from national pizza chains to ma and pa storefronts. Long, crusty rolls are stuffed with cold cuts, meatballs, chicken, pork, crab, bacon, cheese, pineapple, artichokes, and whatever else may tickle your palate.

Over the years I've sworn allegiance to many different subs, and often go back and forth in my preferences depending on whim and appetite.

My current favorite comes from the kitchen of Caper's Pizza Bar on South Byrne Road. Owned by the same people who operate the Mancino's Grinders and Pizza franchise in Perrysburg, the modest restaurant, divided into a large bar and an unassuming dining room, produces a sensational oven-baked sandwich that outshines most of the competition.

Warm and crusty, the Caper's sandwiches ($4.65-$5.25) come with chicken, pork, tuna, seafood, and variations thereof. A hot steak sandwich won me over with thin slices of steak, mushrooms, onions, and cheese dressed with mayonnaise.

Better than the steak, however, was the Italian House Special, a lollapalooza bulging with ham, pepperoni, salami, Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, and vegetables enveloped in bread that remained crunchy to the last bite, unlike some of those currently trendy, toasted-bread varieties that seem to turn soggy halfway through.

True to its name, Caper's revels in its pizza, with a dozen 8-inch to 12-inch possibilities priced from $4.50 to $15.50. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call them gourmet pizzas, considering the choices and combinations of ingredients.

The Mediterranean, for example, mixes pepperoni, vegetables, mozzarella, and feta on a light crust. The seafood pizza brings together shrimp and crab meat in an alfredo garlic sauce. Other pizzas include Hawaiian, taco, Neapolitan, barbecued cheeseburger, and delicious Santa Fe pizza with chicken and, at our request, artichokes.

A handful of chef salads are offered along with appetizers, soups, a few pasta dishes, burgers, clubs, BLTs, and calzones - essentially pizzas in turnovers.

On two recent visits, the tomato bread appetizer ($2.50) was garlicky and crunchy. But the soups ($3.50 a bowl) left much to the imagination, with the vegetable beef absent of any visible beef and the potato mushy and overcooked. Pasta also is a minor player on the menu, as witnessed by the small, bland spaghetti and meatballs ($6.95) accompanied by an undistinguished tossed salad.

But what crowd-pleasing food we found among those well-crafted pizzas and the sandwiches that turned ordinary subs into oven-baked delights.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com



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