“The older I get, the less I think of accomplishments or steps in the ladder. Rather, I try to be a good person on a day-to-day basis, do right by people, and become a more fair and just person,” Tony Capra explains. “I’m a Libra – I thrive on balance,” he says with a smile.
Hailing from Minneapolis, Anthony James Capra fell in love with the hospitality industry when he was hired as a bellman at the Phoenician Resort his freshman year at Arizona State University. He returned home to finish his degree in German at University of Minnesota and worked at the Whitney Hotel, a small, high-end boutique hotel. In seven years, he worked his way from bellman to his first management job, all the while meeting many visiting celebrities, including Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon while filming “Grumpy Old Men.”
Even though he loved his job, he didn’t necessarily like the Minnesota weather. He decided to take a road trip west to visit two former colleagues – one in San Francisco, another in Seattle. First stop was Sausalito, where he spent three days sight-seeing with his friend Monica. As much as he loved the Bay area, the cost of living was too high, so Tony headed north to Seattle and, as he explains, “as I was driving on 99 North through Seattle, I just knew this is where I wanted to be.” While in Seattle he took in the sights with an old friend Ellen, who had moved from Minneapolis to Seattle the previous year and who would later convince Tony to move to the restaurant side of the hospitality business.
He drove home, gave his notice, and packed up his car to head west for good. He didn’t have much luck with hotel jobs, so he followed his friend Ellen’s advice and gave restaurants a go, starting at Salty’s on Alki as the maitre d’. He found success redesigning the dining room and books, and after stints in banquet management and purchasing, he wound up as General Manager (GM). It was there he also met his best friend, Cooper Mills, now the GM at El Gaucho Seattle. After nine years at Salty’s, he moved on to Ivar’s as Asst GM, spent time at Acres of Clams, and became GM of Ivar’s Salmon House.
In October of 2008, he joined his friend Cooper to become Asst. GM at El Gaucho Seattle. He quickly became known as the “go-to” guy and fix-it man, and filled in for vacant GM positions in Tacoma and Portland, but he never wanted to move outside of Seattle. In October 2012, he was offered the General Manager position at El Gaucho Bellevue.
Since becoming GM, Tony says his greatest accomplishment as a professional is building a team that works so well together. “We’ve built a great environment for our guests and team,” he says.
In his free time, Tony loves to travel, play golf, and cheer on local sports teams. He is also a fan of English Soccer team Chelsea. Last year he bought a 24’ RV, affectionately known as “Minnie Winnie” and has so far explored Eastern Washington and the Oregon Coast. That said, his favorite place is Maui. As you might have guessed from his name, Tony is Italian, and when going out, he loves home-style Italian cooking, with a warm atmosphere and good food. His favorite haunts are Bizarro in Fremont, Palace Kitchen, and Branzino for cigars and scotch for an after work treat.
When asked about his family, he mentions he’s the youngest of four, and has five nieces and four nephews all in the Minneapolis area, which he visits once a year. His parents are now “full time RVers,” splitting their time between Minnesota and Texas. “My West Coast family has really become the people I work with at El Gaucho Bellevue,” he says. “I have people ask me if I’m interested in being set up on dates, but honestly I’m content being single. I like my life, and my work, and my family here.”
His favorite part of working for El Gaucho is that at the end of the day, it’s still a “mom and pop restaurant.” He explains, “There are no layers of corporate; the owners trust the General Managers to get the right people and let them do their job. If we’re doing our job right, we’re attracting the right people, who are professionals and are not only great people, but great people to work with.”
Visit Tony and his family of employees at El Gaucho Bellevue for lunch, happy hour and dinner. Hours: Monday-Friday starting at 11:30am, Saturday & Sunday starting at 5:00pm.