The Dish: Caputo’s Cheese Market


Carter Horan

The Dish is a multimedia food review segment co-produced by Will Davis and Carter Horan. Each week, they will travel to a North Shore restaurant to try, discuss, and evaluate the eats in and around Lake Forest.

In the heart of Lake Forest lies the wonderful Caputo’s Cheese Market. Started in 1978 by the Caputo family, Rene and Pasquale founded the historic Caputo’s Cheese Market that exists today. The diversity of the restaurant lends itself to be as much of a market as it is a lunch spot, insofar as the establishment offers homemade cheese, along with handcrafted sandwiches. Caputo’s has grown to have many locations, including services in Milwaukee and Boston in addition to the two markets in the Chicagoland area, located in Lake Forest and Melrose Park. It is a spot in Lake Forest known for its hospitality and perfectly prepared food while maintaining that homely feel. In addition to serving sandwiches and desserts, Caputo’s functions as a grocery store and deli. Caputo’s prides itself on providing quality meats, cheeses, and bread to Lake Forest residents. Caputo’s also is becoming more well0known for their delectable coffee drinks, which are priced reasonably in comparison to their neighborhood counterparts.  We needed to see if all of this was too good to be true, so we decided to take it back and visit a classic Lake Forest restaurant for the first time in a while.

Affordability: 8.5/10

One of Caputo’s most notable strengths was the pricing of the sandwiches and drinks that we ordered. Our meal consisted of the VIP panini, a bacon breakfast burrito, a mini prosciutto panino, and then a San Pellegrino and a large vanilla steamer. All of this food came out to only $18. That’s pretty unbelievable for a sandwich shop that uses top-of-the-line deli meats and cheeses to make all of their food. In comparison, Lake Forest Food and Wine prices their sandwiches at about $8.50 a sandwich. Their drinks are also much more expensive. Another important thing that needs to be taken into account is that we also ordered a breakfast burrito and mini panini, which both were extremely well priced for their portion size. Both were cheap and filling at the same time.We also ordered a small individual lava cake that came in at just about $3.  The cake was a nice size and was exceptional. Overall, Caputo’s really did impress us with their overall affordability and quality.

Environment: 7.5/10

Caputo’s impressed with their environment. The restaurant/grocery store definitely provided an authentic Italian vibe. Stocked with hundreds of different cheeses, wines, and meats, customers can buy food for home-cooked dinners, not just sit-down lunches. As we expected, Caputo’s was empty during our late-night visit. You can tell from the style of the restaurant that their most popular hours come during lunch time from local patrons and workers in Lake Forest. We were fascinated by a giant trophy standing on the counter that read “Rib Fest Grand Champion.” This is a great accomplishment for Caputo’s, expanding on their usual cheeses to win a big event like Rib Fest in Lake Bluff. The seating is very minimal inside with only a handful of tables present but more outside for the spring/summer season. The surroundings of Caputo’s is their strongest point, being right in the middle of downtown Lake Forest. This makes it easy for a couple on their first date, or an employee looking for a quick bite on their lunch break.

Food Quality: 9/10

The meat and cheese at Caputo’s are unmatched in the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff area. Nothing beats a quality, thinly sliced prosciutto sandwich with its wonderful, salty flavor.  The combination of the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella cheese was exceptional and made our mouths water. The VIP sandwich, perhaps Caputo’s most reputable selection, was then topped with a nice vinaigrette dressing, lettuce, and fresh tomatoes. All of these fillings were placed on top of a baguette toasted to a perfect crispness. Both the VIP and the mini prosciutto panini were high-caliber sandwiches that filled us up while providing amazing flavor. The egg and bacon breakfast burrito was also very impressive. The eggs were fluffy and soft but the bacon was a little bit undercooked, and didn’t really provide the bang we were hoping it would. Fortunately, that was Caputo’s only real downfall as the vanilla steamer and lava cake that we tried also lived up to expectations. The lava cake had a gooey, chocolatey center that oozed out when we cut the cake in half. Every bite of the cake made you want to even more, the ultimate temptation of a solid dessert. The vanilla steamer had a frothy top, and the drink itself was very creamy. Overall, we thought the food at Caputo’s was scrumptious and we will definitely find ourselves eating there again.

Service: 8.5/10

The workers of Caputo’s were cleaning up after long day as we strolled in at 6:30 pm on a Wednesday night. Surprised by our late arrival, the two employees greeted us nicely and welcomed us, acting normally even considering I was ordering a “breakfast” burrito for dinner. Just five minutes later, our food was ready to go, and both paninis toasted to perfection. We also had no problem filming the cheese shop after a short conversation with the manager regarding our work at The Forest Scout. One thing that we appreciate was their manager assuring that we should take our time finishing our meal even though the store closed at 7:00. He continued to make sure we were not rushed when filming and eating our meal.  We had no problems as far as service is concerned and very much appreciate the accommodation we received at Caputo’s.

Spear Rating: 3 SPEARS (out of 4)