Culinary pizzazz, passion in Agoura Hills

Acorn Epicurean
ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers

ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers

Being an avid fan of cooking shows, I must admit that I can be wowed by food flair and imagination, and that’s exactly what I found at Dominic’s Ristorante in Agoura Hills.

Its new chef, Marco D’Orsi, oozes culinary pizzazz and passion, as well as the type of skill, knowledge and cooking confidence that comes from 30 years of creating dishes for his own restaurants and other establishments.

The Italian-French chef says his mom was the inspiration for his Mediterranean skills in the kitchen. Having grown up close to the Italian-French border, D’Orsi considers himself “trans alpin,” meaning his cooking is influenced by the regions on both sides of the Alps mountains.

Ela Lindsay

Ela Lindsay

His flair is brilliantly translated onto the plate, as he whips up amazing fare that is not only gorgeous to look at, but chock-full of flavor and panache.

Tomahawk steaks are often featured on cooking shows, and I’ve always secretly wanted to taste one for myself. So when Chef D’Orsi placed a perfectly prepared Tomahawk before me, I was floored. The rare meat sliced like butter and tasted wonderful, and the simple but delicious sides of mashed potatoes, carrots and green beans only made this chef’s special even more spectacular.

Dominic’s Ristorante is a unique, somewhat hidden local gem that needs to be discovered. Owner Carlos Orozco, a restaurateur for over three decades, has created a fabulous and unparalleled experience in the Conejo Valley.

FINE DINING—Above, veggies and the Tomahawk Steak dinner, the chef’s special. At right, the chef himself, Marco D’Orsi.

FINE DINING—Above, veggies and the Tomahawk Steak dinner, the chef’s special. At right, the chef himself, Marco D’Orsi.

“It’s one of the best venues in this ZIP code,” said bartender Nick Bruno. “It has so many options for all ages,” he said.

You owe it to yourself to check out this delightful spot because you won’t believe it until you experience it.

When you drive up to Dominic’s, the cozy-yet-sprawling structure hints that there’s something special inside. It sits on grounds dotted with massive pine trees and a lovely oak that are bedecked with twinkle lights.

Stepping indoors reveals a stylish haven that includes fine dining in intimate, romantic booth and table settings, with beautiful, sexy black linens and luxuriously comfy charcoal-gray seating.

More twinkle lights inside give the interior a warm, glowing feel that’s punctuated by wonderful, wafting scents drifting from the kitchen.

And there’s a large, red private party room that’s reminiscent of a cool castle setting. With lots of large black chandeliers and glowing red tent-like covering, the space exudes se sense of fun and flair.

When you wind your way up past the kitchen and into the bar area, you’ll find another world of excitement.

Along with TV screens and a long bar, there’s even a fireplace nook that accommodates a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays so patrons can dance the night away till 2 a.m., according to Bruno.

There’s also a dance floor so you can boogie to the beat of live bands like the Chris Banta Trio, which will play jazz and blues from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturdays, May 26 and June 9.

The coup de gras is a patio with private booth settings complete with drapes that call for a secret rendezvous or special gatherings.

Dominic’s Ristorante is definitely a magical place where you can celebrate date nights, important milestones or just relax and enjoy food fit for a king.

The owner and chef are revamping an already popular menu that will include tuna carpaccio and Manhattan clam chowder appetizers, entrees such as lobster linguine arrabbiata, Chilean sea bass, New York steak Toscano and homemade ravioli.

Chef D’Orsi is passionate about the ingredients in his dishes; don’t get him started talking about Parmesan cheese, for instance, which he considers an art in itself. I actually learned more from him on the subject than I have from my beloved cooking shows!

He believes in using the freshest of the fresh, the best of the best. His motto for cooking is to use “three or four ingredients, impeccably done, well-calibrated and well-made,” he said.

And it shows in the food at Dominic’s Ristorante, 29002 Agoura Road in Agoura Hills. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays; dinner is from 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

For more information, call (818) 865-3700 or go online to dominicsristorante.com.