As fabulous as Manhattan is, it sometimes is necessary to venture outside the most famed of New York’s 5 boroughs — if only to return with a greater appreciation for it. When leaving Manhattan, the first inclination is to head to Brooklyn. The botanical gardens, the hipsters, and the Park Slope parents all make for interesting sightseeing. Queens might even be on the bucket list, if you were headed to Jackson Heights for a South Asian festival of some sort, or to get some really good Greek coffee, or to drink yourself jolly at the Bohemian Beer Garden. A couple weekends ago, D, NW & I made such an adventure outside Manhattan, but not to the typical destinations — we decided to hop on the BD train to the Bronx.
It doesn’t have the best of reputations, true — but during the day, when the sun is shining and kids are chasing each other down the sidewalk, the Bronx isn’t as bleak as some stories make it seem. It was the Feast of St. Joseph — a lesser-known Catholic holiday, and our friend CM invited us to join him at Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue, to continue the tradition his family has kept for this special day.
I Googled Dominick’s before I left my apartment — in part because I needed to know exactly where it was (this was just before I invested in a smart phone), and in part because someone had mentioned something about the history of the place. Family-style is Dominick’s method of serving. They didn’t even used to have a menu (according to CM and NYMag.com)! Upon entering and being seated, you’d place an order for whatever Italian dish you were craving at the moment. If they had it, you’d get it — if not, you’d be stuck craving it until your next trip to the Olive Garden.
I’ve never been great with decision-making, but I do like to have options, so I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered that Dominick’s does now have a menu. Seemingly just one, and taped to the front window, but still comforting to know there were some guidelines to follow and that I would not be stuck with Chicken Parmigiano for my lack of culinary creativity.
As it is, they still don’t hand you a menu once seated. The waiter comes by your table and tells you your options — 5 or 6 appetizers and 5 or 6 entrees to choose from that vary from day to day. Being a party of 9 (CM had invited quite a few of us) we opted for the large, Italian family style and had some of each dish the waiter had to offer that day. We started with a Greek Salad and some stuffed artichoke hearts and some Peroni — the true Italian beer.
Scarcely had we finished our appetizers when the entrees arrived. Chicken, veal, seafood linguini, vegetarian rigatoni, and veal-stuffed red bell peppers — everything was delicious. You would think that with 9 people, sampling a little of each would make the food disappear fairly quickly. Somehow, we couldn’t manage to fit all of the deliciousness into our bellies that day — and certainly not for lack of trying. Of course when the bill came, it was not surprise that it totaled over $200. But with a little help from our handy, dandy smart phones (mine not included, as it was still a dumb phone) it broke down to about $30 per person. It’s a little outrageous that we could get so much delicious food at such a bargain.
It’s a trek to get up there, I’m won’t lie. But Arthur Avenue is really a quite adorable little neighborhood. If you’re looking for a Little Italy experience, it beats Mulberry Street any day.