First impressions: Established since 2009, independent Italian-owned Capricci attracts a local and expat clientele. its Tanjong Pagar location is a natural draw for the office crowd who’d rather not sweat it out at the foodcourts. The decor is rustic–bare concrete flooring, red exposed bricks, wood accents and even a Spartan-like helmet at the bar counter. They’re getting a facelift soon, so stay tuned for a more traditional, homely Italian lunch hangout. They also have an exclusive six-seater wine tasting room, with wines from 11 Italian regions.

Tip-off: Sit near the buffet table and you might get to watch the chef work those pizzas. Don’t just observe, but smell that toasty, slightly charred crust. Yes, grab them while they’re hot.

Food stations: It’s a straightforward selection, functionally categorised into two sections: the salad and fruits bar, and the main dishes station. Soft drinks, coffee and tea are at an additional $4 nett. As the spread changes daily, what you see is what you get–if you’re craving a particular item, then it’s best to order from the a la carte menu instead.

Starting off with the salad bar, we had a pick of assorted greens (lettuce, rocket leaves and romaine lettuce), broccoli, potato salad, sweet corn (de-cobbed), long beans, and tomatoes. Top off your salad with dressings such as the traditional Italian dressing and lemon dressing. Though having only a limited choice of greens, a selected few come from organic sources and the quality is decent.

Moving on to something denser, we had the day’s vegetable soup which was a delightful blend of cauliflower, pumpkins and potatoes. it had a porridge consistency and was well seasoned. Other more familiar soups you might get to try include minestrone and mushroom soup, depending on chef’s whims of the day.

For something hearty, the assorted pizzas, a pasta and meat of the day are also part of the selection (for just a mere $15 nett so eat to your heart’s content). We tucked into a pink sauced fusilli, basically a tomato base pasta dotted with vegetables like green beans, asparagus and zucchini. The pastas are mainly vegetarian and the selection changes each time. On our visit, the meat of the day reminded us of a milder version of ma you ji (sesame sauce chicken). The spread also includes Sicilian style fish using dory or red snapper and beef with potatoes and brown gravy on rotation.

We mopped up the last bits of our lunch with some toasty, relatively thin-crust pizza slices. On offer were the classic focaccia, a traditional tomato and mozzarella cheese pizza and mushroom pizza. To finish off, the server sweet-talked us into ordering the tiramisu (additional $4 nett), but we had no regrets. Made with Avanti espresso and not a drop of alcohol, their dreamy homemade tiramisu was redolent with rich coffee aroma–kudos to the moist lady finger pastry and fluffy whipped cream.

Not so hawt: The mains turns cold on the buffet table fast. It’s best to ’attack’ when the food comes out piping hot.

Final say: If whimsy led you here, you won’t be disappointed. Capricci is an expression of the Italian heart– homely, welcoming and quirkily unique. The value lunch buffet is a great idea and something you won’t find anywhere else in the CBD. Pick the seats at the back of the place with its dimmer lighting, as it gives you a quiet corner to focus on satisfying your appetite.