You won’t find New Orleans’ distinctive brand of Creole Italian at Domenica, one of the city’s finest tributes to regional Italian cuisine. Instead, you’ll find housemade salumi and an epic list of Italian cheeses, a selection of handmade pastas that would make any Italian grandma weep, and some of the city’s best wood-fired, char-blistered pizzas. The chewy-crisp, thin-crust Neopolitan-style pies—topped with everything from pork shoulder to lamb meatballs to yard eggs—have attracted a cult local following, particularly during the restaurant’s 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily Happy Hour. The pizzas (and beer, wine and specialty cocktails) are half-price, rendering the regularly $13 pies an almost embarrassing bargain.
In pastas, the stracci (torn sheets) tossed with oxtail ragu and chicken livers and lasagna Bolognese are standouts. Popular main courses include whole grilled redfish and fritto misto, the Italian take on a fried seafood platter. For heartier appetites, look to the slow-roasted goat braciole, the paneed veal, and thick slices of roasted pork shoulder from that lardiest of pigs, the Mangalitsa.
The sleek, modern dining room is at odds with the warm, refined-rustic food being served and lacks the personal feel of other Besh restaurants, but it hardly detracts from the experience. Visiting eaters understandably come to New Orleans hungering for the local cuisine, but executive chef and partner Alon Shaya did his research the right way: with a lengthy grazing tour of Italy to learn its rustic foodways. His menu fills a void in New Orleans of the boot country’s authentic, peasant-style, regional cooking.
Bubbling, blistered pizzas from the restaurant's wood-fired oven are bar none in New Orleans, and executive chef Alon Shaya has steered this popular regional Italian restaurant to local stardom.