The History of Capri


In 1890 Giacomo Grisanzio, and 1903 Elizabetta Mariano, were born into modest families in a small southern Italian town of Mola Di Bari. Growing up they learned about working hard for an honest living, importance of family and being kind to others. In the 1920s they married and started their family.

            Vito Michele Grisanzio is the fifth of nine children born in 1935. It was the lifetime goal of his parents to help their children find their way to America. They wanted to give their children the opportunities they never had. They believed America was the land of opportunity!  In the late 1950s and early 1960s their dream was fulfilled when seven of Giacomo & Elisabetta’s children traveled to America.

            It was a long, 8-day journey, crossing the ocean. Vito’s best memory of his life- changing journey was seeing the Statue of Liberty come into view from the deck of the ship. They had landed in America!

            Vito and his siblings lived in Chicago for a few years until two of Vito’s hometown friends (Nick & John) asked him to come to Rockford to work at their small Italian restaurant. Vito decided to move despite being unable to speak English. He was willing to work hard and eager to learn the restaurant business. After working in the restaurant for seven months, Vito called his brother Domenic to town. They bought The Capri Restaurant at 313 East State Street from Nick & John in 1963.

            Over the next several years, Vito and Domenic built a successful restaurant.  Capri was unlike any other restaurant in town and became the “place to go” in downtown Rockford.  Their business flourished leading to several renovations. The Capri went through its’ most significant remodeling in 1979.  Vito & Domenic purchased the building located next to Capri (the former Navy Club) changing the entrance to the rear. Capri instantly doubled in size. Another remodeling occurred in 1990, adding a banquet room to accommodate parties.

            As with prior generations, family has always played a big role in Vito’s life. Vito married Janette (Smith) in 1970.  Although a registered nurse, Janette decided to work with Vito in the restaurant. They have worked side-by-side in Capri for over 40 years. In 1972, they had their first son, Domenic. They followed with two more sons, Vito “Jr.” (1975) and Michael (1977).     

            In the early 1980’s, the brothers split their business. Vito stayed at the downtown Capri location. He is in his 46th year. He has trained many others who have gone on to successful careers in restaurants.  Today, Vito’s younger two sons (Vito “Jr.” & Mike) work with him. His oldest son, Domenic, and his wife, Tracy, help as needed. Vito feels his legacy will be the knowledge he has passed on to all of those who have worked with him along the way.

            Capri is a successful family owned business and it is the oldest single generation, Italian Restaurant in Rockford. It offers a full menu including pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, salads, chicken, fish, and steaks. It is best known for its pizza and homemade baked lasagna. Capri has added several new and exciting items to their menu including homemade bread, baked daily. It boasts an impressive wine selection to compliment any meal. Capri also added a full service bar to enhance the restaurant’s unique and classic Italian ambiance in mid-2009. The future is bright, so please join us in continuing our rich tradition and history.

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