Domenica is the latest project from New Orleans' resident culinary auteur John Besh. If you have missed Besh on Iron Chef or Top Chef Masters or HBO's Treme, his ever expanding empire gives diners a chance to experience his talent in a variety of different settings.
Domenica is a more casual affair than Besh's more heralded establishments like August. The same attention to detail combined with a whimsical sense of imagination makes Domenica equally successful as its more formal brethren.
The dining room at Domenica fits comfortably into the upscale Roosevelt Hotel. Though the dining room is visually striking, the tables suffer from being a little to small to handle the torrent of fantastic food pouring out of the kitchen. Overall, it's a small problem in an otherwise elevated dining experience.
The menu is divided into classic Italian components: antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci. Diners can pick a dish from every part of the classic Italian meal, or they can order pizza and toss in extra items to fill in the blanks. The staff caters to vegetarians very well and is easily able to address all dietary concerns.
The cheese plates come accompanied by savory beignets. The soft, puffy dough is a great vehicle for sweeping up fig compote and other antipasti components. The beignets are a delightful contrast from their sugar-coated cousins served at places like Cafe du Monde.
The fried squash blossom appetizer was perfectly breaded and stuffed with a creamy goat cheese. The bright flavor of the balsamic reduction and the tomatoes bring a nice acidity to the dish. These are delicious enough to make a full meal out of them by themselves.
The main attraction, of course, is the pizza. The crispy thin crust pies are fired in a wood burning oven. Meatless pizzas include a plain cheese, a Margherita, a goat cheese, scallions, radicchio and arugula pie, a four cheese pie and a spinach pie.
The Margherita was an updated version of an Italian classic. The crust had a great texture, and the blackened portions added a smoky flavor to the pizza. The fresh mozzarella, imported from Italy, is applied in perfect proportion to the tomato sauce and basil. The flavor of the tomato sauce is fresh and warm with hints of basil and garlic. The thinly sliced basil brings another layer of flavor to a flawless Margherita pie.
Cocktails and wine at Domenica are also excellent. The mixologist did a great job incorporating idiosyncratic ingredients into beverages that perfectly accompany the food. The wine list is heavy on Italian selections, but it has otherinternational and domestic component as well. In addition to alcoholic drinks, there are also house-made Italian style sodas at Domenica.