Losing a Legend: A Tribute to Tony Caputo
By Sue Geary, Vice Charge’ de Presse
Confrerie de La Chaîne des Rotisseurs of Salt Lake City
Earlier this week, we read about the death of Steven Spurrier, author, wine merchant, founder of L’Academie du Vin, organizer of The Judgement of Paris, and overall champion of French wines. Members of the Confrerie de La Chaîne des Rotisseurs of Salt Lake City who are students of wine, wine educators, culinary artists, or who simply enjoy fine wines knew Spurrier by his reputation and were stunned by the loss of such a giant.
And then . . . we learned of the sudden death of Tony Caputo. Tony was someone we knew not just by reputation for his prominent role in bringing fine artisan foods to our community. We knew Tony for his insistence on quality and authenticity in the foods he imported and the cheeses he made. We knew Tony for the warm smile with which he greeted every one of his customers as well as the many strangers who recognized him and said “hello” whenever he was around town. We knew Tony for his wit and playfulness, most recently as one of the “Old Coots Giving Advice” at the downtown market. We knew Tony for his generosity in giving a leg up to other small business owners. We knew Tony and Mary who, especially since their retirements, seemed never to be apart.
Tony’s knowledge of Mediterranean foods (gained from his work at Granatos Deli and Kitchen), his pride in his Italian heritage, and a genuine love of people converged in his decision to open his own Italian market in 1997. Against the advice of some, Tony settled on a location in a neglected area of Salt Lake City’s downtown across the street from a notorious park. The success of Caputo’s Market and Deli transformed the area with a devoted customer base, attracted more specialty food stores, provided an incubator for other small businesses, and launched a weekly Farmer’s Market at that park. Tony was also a leader among Salt Lake City’s local businesses in promoting responsible environmental practices and taking action on issues of importance to our community’s under-represented populations. His son, Matt and daughter-in-law, Yelena, continue all of those traditions at Caputo’s now four locations.
As our Bailli and owner of Wasatch Academy of Wine, Sheral Schowe, recalls, “I used to teach wine classes at his original market in town and he was always so welcoming and warm when I would see him at fundraisers, at his market and at the Saturday Farmer’s Market… [Caputo’s] has supported our Chaîne events as well as my Italian Wine Scholar classes for years.” In just the past seven months, our Bailliage has enjoyed two events with Caputo’s beautiful artisanal meats, cheeses, olive oils, and chocolates delivered to our doors. Although we will continue to rely on Caputo’s quality products and expert staff for many events to come, Tony Caputo was one-of-a-kind whom we will dearly miss.