Italian cuisine gets five thumbs up

Acorn Epicurean

AUTHENTIC AND DELICIOUS— Above, ranzzino ala checca, a customer favorite at Dominic’s Ristorante in Agoura Hills. At left, co- owner and chef Domenick Medina.

AUTHENTIC AND DELICIOUS— Above, ranzzino ala checca, a customer favorite at Dominic’s Ristorante in Agoura Hills. At left, co- owner and chef Domenick Medina.

Benvenuto to food, wine and Italy, says Domenick Medina, co-owner of Dominic’s Ristorante in Agoura Hills.

A restaurateur for over 30 years, Medina and co-owner Carlos Orozco have created a special, upscale yet comfortably rustic and cozy place that announces great Italian food the minute you arrive.

“Our approach is to offer traditional classic family recipes,” Medina said, “and be really good at it. We want to be better than the next guy,” is the chef’s simple philosophy.

ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers

ELA LINDSAY/Acorn Newspapers

And if the food could talk, it would speak volumes about the validity of that statement. Enjoy an insalate caprese to start, the authentic salad plate comprised of sweet and delicious heirloom tomatoes with basil, smooth and creamy fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers and capers drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic glaze.

Choosing a main course might be a more difficult endeavor, however, especially for those with refined palates that demand only the best.

The branzzino ala checca, a customer favorite, is an excellent choice for seafood lovers. Its beautiful and bright presentation is humbled by the mild yet flavorful pan-seared white Mediterranean bass, which, cooked skin down, adds a surprise crispy element to the fish. The dish is then topped with cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil and served with perfectly cooked pasta and fresh, crunchy vegetables.

 

 

My favorite—and Chef Medina’s masterpiece—was the seemingly simple yet quite elegant bolognese spaghetti, a dish he says offers layers of flavors.

“Bolognese is how you judge a good Italian chef,” he said. And if that’s the measure, then I give this dish five thumbs up.

With a homemade sauce featuring beef, pork, veal and pancetta, this pasta dish was to die for. The four different meats are cooked with fresh garlic, wine and a deep-layered sauce that takes about four to five hours to cook to perfection.

It’s served piled on a plate with enough for leftovers. The flavors held up and offered a still-amazing treat the next day—my own personal measure of great Italian cooking and the way my mama-in-law used to make it.

Medina learned to cook from the ground up; his father was a chef with old-school values and started the lad as a dishwasher, prep guy, then on up the restaurant ladder.

“It’s in my blood,” Medina said about his cooking. “It comes to me naturally.” And he said inspiration comes to him from within, from thinking about flavors. “It’s chemistry and creativity by being daring.”

For example, the perfect addition of a grilled lemon to the fish dish not only brightened the plate, the juice from the lemon also added a special zing to the bass. And the glistening garlic butter atop the rib-eye steak is beautiful and delicious. Nice touches.

The restaurant’s furnishings are similar. Simple and beautiful— lit up by twinkling lights at night, the rich slate-gray seats and black tablecloths add to the upscale yet comfortable ambience.

Dominic’s Ristorante is here to stay. The owners are putting together catering menus as we speak and working on opening the lovely outdoor patio seating. In the meantime, the indoor garden room is a wonderful and intimate place to sit or take advantage of large booths all around.

Medina summed up his take on the establishment: “I’m patient.

We’re building it one customer at a time.”

And I’m sure they’ll make friends for life of patrons who take advantage of their lunch or dinner meals, the former served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and dinners from 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

A word of caution: Until they set up their free valet parking, there’s only street parking available, so when you spot the cute cottage-style home of Dominic’s Ristorante at 29002 Agoura Road in Agoura Hills, start looking for angled parking right on the north and south side of Agoura Road. There’s plenty of it—and more to come in the future of Dominic’s.

For more information, call (818) 865-3700 or visit www.dominicsristorante.com.