One of the most famous families of Bucharest was the one of Dimitrie Capsa. Shopkeepers by vocation and having traveled all over Europe with strong business and connections all over the continent, the Macedonian by origin Capsa Family decided to settle in the heart Bucharest
Up to 1850 being a merchant, bringing loads of great fairs, mean danger, uncertainty. Dimitrie Capsa was lucky, had 12 children and had never faced any dangers; four of his sons established a bakery-confectionery that become famous throughout Europe.
One of the brothers was educated in France at Boissier, the foremost master chocolatier of the time. Two other opened in 1852 the sweet store named “Two brothers”. The wonderful sweets soon began to put in the shade all oriental goods (baklava, sarailie, Tukish delights, cataif, sorbet) made by other chefs.
At the beginning of the Crimean War, one of her brothers leave to Sevastopol with merchandise; on the way it had spoiled and arrived in Bulgaria without a penny in his pocket. But there, on borrowed money, he began preparing jams. And this is when fame and legend begin. He moves in the center of Bucharest to the place where the cafeteria- restaurant stands today. They begin importing merchandise from France that are being introduced to a new and curious clientele that is astounded at the impressive delicacies: absinthe, pineapple, ice-cream in forms of perfect compositions.
In just two decades, Capsa defeated all competition. A new restaurant was added to the confectionary; the walls of the new place were adorned with red marble – hence the name “tomb of the pharaohs”.
Grigore Capsa invented the “Joffre” cake.
At the invitation of King Ferdinand and Queen Mary of Romania, the famous French Marshal Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre arrived in Bucharest in 1920. The grand confectioner Grigore Capsa, who meanwhile had become the supplier of the Royal House, created in honor of the Marshal a chocolate cake in a cylindrical shape suggesting the French military helmets.
Marshal Joffre had diabetes, and because of this fact the master pastry chef who studied in Paris invented a cake that could be consumed without risk of the guest. The cake was named after the acclaimed French personality and was made of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, flavorings, cocoa of the highest quality, and was dressed in chocolate. The “Joffre” Cake began to circle the world being taken over by French cuisine, from whose tradition was inspired. However, the recipe has entered the Romanian confectionery offer and there is virtually no confectionery in Romania that does not prepare the cake in question.
The regulars clients of the place were politicians, diplomats, journalists, painters and musicians. The atmosphere at the tables inside or outside was similar to that from Paris (Procope) or Vienna (Sacher). You could hear a lot of French being spoken.
In December 1916, at the outbreak of war, Bulgarian occupation troops established their headquarters at Casa Capsa. They robbed the cellars of all the treasures gathered by Capsa brothers: French wines from the cellars of Napoleon III since 1848-1858. Until 1918, Bulgarian troops now ate, bean soup in clay bowls at the tables once belonging to one of the most elegant restaurants in Europe. It was a reason for them to feast, with undisguised pride, at the most famous culinary Balkans location.
Between the wars, Capsa acquired a new profile, becoming a literary café. All the country’s brightest minds have been there. Gossip, words of wisdom, they all formed under an unequaled intellectual emulations.
At the same time, Casa Capsa was providing the most sumptuous dining for restaurants belonging to the Royal Palace, Jockey Club, diplomatic missions, ministries. The menus were printed, painted or written by hand and on their back there have signed the customers: from royalty, ministers, parliamentarians, famous artists – it all represents today an archive of the Romanian royalty and high class.
The outcome of Warld War II and the arrival of the Communist regime meant a steamroller over the elitism promoted at Capsa. The classic menus that were pieces of art on their own were now typed, some in Russian; the place was renamed simply called “Bucharest”, the silver cutlery was replaced with ordinary pieces, waiters of “healthy origin” – all these have trivialized the place, so proud not long ago.
But still, Capsa was a flashy café during communist times as well, but without the spiritual meetings and discussions that once took place here. After 1989, the attempt of regaining the cultural vibe, but the glory and importance of yore failed to lift to the level that was once known, remaining but a select local with many memories and a history that cannot be overlooked when we refer to Bucharest past.
Photo source Picture 1: en.wikipedia.org; Picture2 welcome2romania.wordpress.com; Picture 3: getlokal.ro; Picture 4: cazari.ro; Picture 5: booking.com; Picture 6: amfostacolo.ro; Picture 7: mancare.ro.