June 14, 2020

Family-owned Caputo’s Market & Deli famous for specialty foods, including chocolate

Family-owned Caputo’s Market & Deli famous for specialty foods, including chocolate ony Caputo's great uncle Giacomo, his grandfather Rosario, his father Dominic, his uncle Jay, his uncle John and the child is his cousin Alfredo. The photo was taken on Palm Sunday, ~1945 Family-owned Caputo’s Market & Deli famous for specialty foods, including chocolate The Cap Market with Dr Pepper sign is the first Rose Park store Tony's father Nick and mother Mary Lou and maternal grandmother Virginia
|ony Caputo's great uncle Giacomo, his grandfather Rosario, his father Dominic, his uncle Jay, his uncle John and the child is his cousin Alfredo. The photo was taken on Palm Sunday, ~1945||The Cap Market with Dr Pepper sign is the first Rose Park store|Tony's father Nick and mother Mary Lou and maternal grandmother Virginia|||| |ony Caputo's great uncle Giacomo, his grandfather Rosario, his father Dominic, his uncle Jay, his uncle John and the child is his cousin Alfredo. The photo was taken on Palm Sunday, ~1945||The Cap Market with Dr Pepper sign is the first Rose Park store|Tony's father Nick and mother Mary Lou and maternal grandmother Virginia|||| ||||||||
By Terry Marasco

Matt Caputo, son of Tony Caputo, is intense and passionate about chocolate. Matt was a cheese geek, now he’s a chocolate geek, and he is carrying on a long family tradition.

Four generations of Caputos have lived in Utah. Matt’s great grandparents immigrated from Italy and settled in Carbon County, where they worked in the coal mines. The Caputo family opened a small market in 1920 in Rose Park, where they served locals for decades and even had the first refrigerated deli case in Utah.

Both Matt and his father, Tony, worked at Granato’s, then later Tony opened Caputo’s Market & Deli at 300 South and 300 West in 1997. They have been at this location near Pioneer Park for 23 years.

Three additional markets have opened up in recent years – at 15th and 15th, in Holladay, and on the U of U campus. Caputo’s is a focal point for specialty foods in the Intermountain West, and was awarded Outstanding Specialty Food Retailer by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade in 2009.

Matt’s priority for sourcing chocolate is, first and foremost, “bean-to-bar” producers; their hands are on the whole process using heirloom tree strains which grow in specific soils, like fine wines from specific vineyards.

Additionally, the fermentation process is started with ambient yeast also derived from the soil, which contributes to the unique taste. Environmentally sound practices are carefully checked by Matt. Small family farm producers find USDA regulations very costly, but Matt makes sure their farming practices, as well as the taste of the products, meet his high standards.

History of Chocolate

Chocolate beverages date back to 450 B.C. in Mexico. The Aztecs believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds were used as a form of currency. The word "chocolate" equates to the Aztec word "xocoatl," a beverage from cacao beans. Cocoa trees grew in Central and South America about 100 million years ago, perhaps on the lower slopes of the Andes. The trees only thrive in hot, rainy places near the equator.

Fast forward to 1847: The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who added melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa, and in 1868 Cadbury was born in England.

Caputo’s Large Chocolate Collection

Caputo’s carries 62 brands and about 800 varieties made from chocolate: bean-to-bar bars (the largest selection which includes pure, fruit and nut-flavored); cocoa powders; baker’s chocolate (Michelin chefs use a brand he carries – Valrhona); mothballs, drinking types; spreads; chocolate bitters and Bon Bons from a high quality producer in California. The mothballs are from a producer in Iceland. One type of mothball is Kakkris (“licorice”), which tastes of licorice root and sea salt.

Cocoa beans at Caputo’s are as varied in national origin as are fine wines: Madagascar, Ecuador, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Producers are from all over the world such as England and Iceland, states like Oregon and our own Utah.

Solstice, a producer in Murray, makes a “Wasatch” 70% bar with cocoa from Madagascar and Uganda.

Another bar they carry is sourced from the Dominican Republic and flavored with Bergamot, the herb used in Earl Grey tea.

Powder Hazel of Portland makes a spread with Ennis hazelnuts and donates 50 cents per bar to the Audubon Society.

One of their spread producers from Vietnam, Maron (which Matt visited), uses cashews and coconut milk with their cocoa rather than hazelnuts.

In Utah, Amano in Orem was Utah’s first producer of bean-to-bar craft chocolates in 2005 and has won many awards.

With selections running from $8 to $450, Matt believes chocolate is an “affordable luxury.” Where else can you enjoy “best in the world” for $8? He states that chocolate is meant to savor like a fine wine, a few tastes of the best sate. And giving the best from Caputo’s chocolate collection is the ultimate. Matt has his share daily; he says he consumes about ¼  to ½ of a pound a day, but stays in shape by exercising.

If staff is busy, Matt has set up a self-education table with discussions of a variety of chocolates; dark, milk, and chocolate with fruit. Customers can sample various types of chocolate and learn about the differences.

Cocoa dust has wandered to the deli side: Tiramisu is dusted with Valnhona cocoa powder adding a flavorful touch to this Italian dessert. Mangia!