So, I can’t help it. I live in one of the most culinarily interesting cities in the world. I like food. I like cooking, and I like reading cookbooks. I know, I know, whats to read? Well, if its a GOOD cookbook, the recipes read like stories, little fables and foibles of food that whet the imagination as much as the appetite. I have a few upcoming reviews of some favorites coming up, so don’t worry. But I also LOVE when people come to visit me in my city, and I get to go out to eat. I mean, I get to take them out to eat, and show off whats so delicious (which is pretty much everything) about New Orleans. And there are the obvious places – Jacquesimo’s, Commander’s Palace, August – but this series is about five of my favorite, off the beaten path places in New Orleans. (Plus one. Because I can’t even adhere to rules wen I make them up.) Well, maybe they’re just off the typical beaten New Orleans food path – in other words, thinking outside the Creole and Cajun box. This first one, Domenica, is a John Besh Restaurant in the recently reopened Roosevelt Hotel. John Besh is one of the best chefs in New Orleans. And yet, when people come tot he city, unless they’re foodies or celebrity chef acolytes I doubt they know of the deliciousness of Domenica.
Domenica means Sunday in Italian and this restaurant, in my opinion, is the perfect marriage of elegant Italian comfort food in a relaxed, yet chic, atmosphere. Chef Alon Shaya has created an Italian and Meditteranean inspired menu that boasts everything from creative pizzas and pastas to wood roasted goat, shakshouka style with a yard egg and tomato sauce. Don’t know what shakshouka is? Its an Israeli dish of spicy tomato delight, and here, its just for the carnivores, though it isn’t always strictly carnivorous. And this is one of the things I like best about Domenica – unlike some of the other Besh restaurants in the city this one is amazingly veg friendly, or veg adaptable, though probably not a destination for the gluten or dairy free-a-vores. I hope I never have cause to give up dairy or gluten. Because no more cheese would be so sad, and pizza is my go-to comfort food. Here, at least, I can pretend it’s healthy and indulge my baked things on crispy crusty bread need.
But what makes this restaurant one of my absolute favorite New Orleans food haunts, is the happy hour. It is, in fact, my favorite happy hour in the city. From 3-6 you get half price wine, cocktails, and beer and half price pizza. The pizza, running around $13 a pie pre-discount (for those as math challenged as me, thats about $6-7 a pie for happy hr) is made in a wood fired pizza oven imported from Italy. Thats right – ITALY. Supposedly, they know a thing or tow about pizza there. Its the closest thing I’ve had in the States to true Italian-like-you-get-in-Italy pizza, and once you’ve had that, my friends, there’s little else that satisfies. I visited this week with two friends and we had an appetizer, two drinks a piece, and two pizzas and managed to come away paying less than $20 a piece, even with a 20% tip. The John Besh Group is famous for their happy hours at their restaurants, but this one is far and away my favorite. I’m easy like this – give me top notch food at a decent price and I’m a loyal fan.
This happy hour trip we started with fried kale. What, you may ask, is that? Well, its what it sounds like. Its kale, fried, dusted with parmesan, and bursting with flavor. Don’t like greens? I bet this will turn you around. Its a decadent little way of getting to your six plus servings of veggies a day 🙂 So don’t pay attention to all that CHEESE on top. This dish is healthy. This dish is good for you. You should get two.
We followed that with what has become my favorite pizza – the Wild Mushroom, Fontina, Bacon, and Yard Egg Pizza (except I get it without bacon, an adjustment they are always happy to make). Egg on pizza you may ask? DAMN right I say. Its pizza with pizzaz and I can eat the entire thing by myself (though I can be persuaded to share if you ply me with enough wine ;). We also ordered the Roasted Carrot pizza. Again, you’re probably confused. And to be fair, so were my happy hour pizza munching companions. But we persevered – and am I ever glad we did. This pizza boasts a sauce made of pureed roasted carrots, and is topped with roasted beets, shaved Brussels Sprouts, red onions, goat cheese – and, the piece de resistance, toasted hazelnuts. Its nutty and ever so slightly sweet and spicy, and it will surprise you and delight you. We all agreed it was scrumptious, and I will probably gain fifty pounds because whenever I go now I will have to order and eat both. In their entirety. No crumbs.
Or, you can buy me some of their wine. With happy hour prices ranging from $4 and up for smooth, delicious wines to suit everypalate, or Bellinis at half price, or even beer if thats your thing, this happy hour is designed to make one – well, happy. And since Domenica also offers a specially infused olive oil for dipping pizza crusts and crusty breads into, and the most amazing complimentary devil’s food cookie bites at check time there is no end of decadence to delight in. You should go. You should go often. You should buy me a glass of Sauvignon Blanc so I don’t steal your pizza.