Awards and Reviews
Dominic’s was recently chosen as one of Opentable’s Most Romantic Restaurants in America.
Dominic’s has been awarded the DiRona Award every year since 1977.
2001 Restaurant Hall of Fame Award
1999 Award of Excellence International Restaurant & Hospitality Rating Bureau
Voted by the readers of the Conde Nast Traveler as one of the best two Italian restaurants in the country.
DILIGENT WORK MAKES DOMINIC’S A DELIGHT
by John Garganigo
St. Louis Globe-Democrat – July 18, 1986
Of all the fine Italian restaurants on The Hill, one that has always been at the top of my list of favorites is Dominic’s at 5101 Wilson. For 15 years, Dominic and Jackie Galati have worked diligently to make their restaurant one of the most sophisticated dining establishments in St. Louis.
The carefully selected colors of the dining rooms are quite soothing. And antique credenzas, fine china and expensive elegant silverware combine with crystal chandeliers and soft lighting for an overall effect of refinement. Tuxedo-clad waiters and their assistants deliver formal service without being cloying.
Pivotal to the restaurant’s success is the presence of Dominic and Jackie, two consummate restaurateurs who are involved in every aspect of the business. They chat with customers, make suggestions about the menu and ensure that everything adds up to an enjoyable evening. Through the years, I have eaten at Dominic’s on a number of occasions and I have always been satisfied.
Dominic and Jackie know that a restaurant can’t rest on its laurels. New dishes, reflecting trends and prevailing tastes, are constantly being introduced on the menu. Dominic’s was one of the first restaurants in St. Louis to introduce the popular Carpaccio and that wonderful summer treat Vitello tonnato, veal loin in a cold tuna mayonnaise.
On a recent visit, I was enticed to try a new appetizer – artichoke with shrimp and spinach ($6). I also ordered Insalata di Mare ($7), an appetizer that I find particularly appealing in the hot summer months. Both dishes were exemplary.
The first involved a great deal of work in its preparation. A whole artichoke was steamed and then pared down to the bottom. The latter was stuffed with saut
DOMINIC’S: NOW REIGNING AS KING OF THE HILL
Joe Pollack – Dining Out
St. Louis Post Dispatch – October 6, 1992
The Hill long has been known as the home of fine Italian cuisine in St. Louis. Geographically, Dominic’s is at the foot of the Hill, at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Hereford Street. Gastronomically, it is at the head of its class.
A classic Italian restaurant, with chandeliers and soft lights and napery so crisp it almost crackles. Dominic’s sets a mood of quiet elegance, enhanced by excellent service. Dominic (nee John) Galati has held forth for more than 20 years, when he left his post as a waiter at Tony’s to strike out on his own. In the early days, Dominic and his wife Jackie, lived upstairs over the store, a style established generations earlier by other hard-working immigrants.
Dominic’s classic Italian menu is expensive, with dinner above $35 a person for an appetizer, entree and dessert, not including drinks, tax and tip. In that price range, I permit no small mistakes, and I was disturbed about the quality of the tomatoes on a pair of recent visits, both occurring while local markets are laden with excellent ones. One should not receive January-quality tomatoes in September, and they showed up in a salad, and as a garnish on an entree.
With that exception, a pair of dinners were exemplary from start to finish, with beef, veal and fish all arriving in superior, understated sauces that heightened the basic flavor without treading on it.
We sampled both uncomplicated and complex dishes, and everything was not only flavorful – but was presented simply and stylishly, without excess decoration, which sometimes can get in the way.
For example, a prosciutto-and-melon appetizer is about as basic as one can get, and while it takes no special skill in the kitchen, it demands that the restaurateur make the necessary effort to acquire outstanding ingredients. That was the case with sweet, juicy cantaloupe and the slightly salty, immensely flavorful cured ham. Simple as it is, it’s an exemplary dish. Sweet and juicy steamed mussels, arranged immaculately on the plate, arrived under a hearty marinara sauce, with overtones of olives and garlic, along with tomatoes that did pass muster. Good, crusty bread helped mop up the sauce.
Had the tomatoes been better, a salad that included fresh mozzarella cheese, anchovies and basil, under a first-rate vinaigrette dressing would have been outstanding, and a standard green salad, with a similar dressing, boasted excellent, crisp, tasty greens.
Risotto, showing up on more and more menus in town – and a welcome arrival at that – boasted light, perfectly cooked rice, studded with just enough clams, mussels and shrimp to heighten the flavor. Also, a pasta side dish of rigatoni in a spicy amatriciana sauce was another winner. The hearty pasta absorbs sauce beautifully and doesn’t slide around the plate, the way a thinner noodle does.
Entrees were uniformly splendid, beginning with zuppa di pesce, an Italian version of the French bouillabaise. A hearty, nicely spiced stock was loaded with mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and salmon, and the addition of the latter, not a common part of the dish, brought a distinctive, lovely flavor.
Veal with lemon, Dominic’s version of the traditional veal piccata, brought fork-tender veal and a tangy sauce that was just right. And on a more basic level, a sirloin steak, thick and perfectly cooked, was tender and delicious. Roasted potatoes and creamed spinach, with just a hint of vinegar, were excellent vegetable accompaniments.
A solid wine list, strong on Italian imports, makes for good reading, and there’s a nice selection of wines by the glass as well.
Dessert varies, and Dominic’s tiramisu with a touch of sambucca, was tasty but fell short of classic status. On the other hand, Dominic himself got into the act one quiet night, saut
DOMINIC HONORED AT ’95 ITALIAN OPEN
Giovanni Dominic Galati is an Italian Classic. Just ask his famous friends and local fans who have wined and dined at his restaurants, Dominic’s on the Hill and Premio in the heart of downtown St. Louis.
He was born in the small town of Giardillo, near Palermo, the capital of Sicily, and immigrated to the United States in 1964, bringing with him a passion for food and for life. Lucky for St. Louisans, he settled in our wonderful Gateway City and has made a name for himself in the restaurant scene and our community.
After proudly learning his business while working for his friend, Vincent Bommarito of Tony’s, Giovanni opened his first restaurant, Dominic’s in 1971, and his second, Premio, in 1989.
Dominic’s Restaurant was a family affair. He and his lovely wife, Jackie, together with her parents, Angelo and Josephine Ferrante, spent endless hours making Dominic’s one of the finest restaurants in the country.
Giovanni created Italian delicacies in the kitchen while Jackie and their daughters, Gina and Marie, greeted many famous guests as well as their loyal regular customers.
Giovanni is an active member of the St. Louis Ambassadors, GRUPPO RISTORATORI ITALIANI, and DIRONA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America). Both Dominic’s and Premio were honored with the DIRONA award, the only two restaurants in the country under the same ownership to achieve this honor. Dominic’s is the recipient of the DIRONA award for twenty-one consecutive years and the Mobil Four Star award for nineteen years. Dominic’s was also voted by readers of the Conde Nast Traveler as one of the two best Italian restaurants in the country.
Giovanni extends his personal commitment from the dining room to the community as he volunteers his time and efforts to numerous charities throughout the year. He has helped raise funds for the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Street of Dreams for Jewish Hospital, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Barnes Hospital, a Taste of Italy and many others.
By Patricia Corrigan
Post-Dispatch Restaurant Critic
You would expect to find lobster ravioli, osso buco and various veal dishes on The Hill, but you also can find all that and more on a hill in Clayton. Furthermore, the name on the door is well-respected, both on the gently sloping street in Clayton and on The Hill.
Dominic and Jackie Galati opened Dominic’s Trattoria in March 1997 as a more casual alternative to their landmark restaurant at 5101 Wilson Avenue. In Clayton, food is plated in the kitchen and the atmosphere is more contemporary, though still sophisticated, just as you might expect. Be sure to peek in the red room at the south end of the restaurant, where an artist has recaptured the view from the family’s seaside home in Sicily.
Sam Kacar is the general manager and Ervin Karaj, a native of Albania trained by Dominic Galati himself, is the chef. The menu reflects primarily southern Italian cuisine, but some dishes from northern Italy also are available. Big sellers at Dominic’s Trattoria include lobster ravioli, veal scaloppine and osso buco.
Among the four appetizers sampled in the course of two visits, three were outstanding. Lobster ravioli ($15.75), rightfully popular, brought six plump pillows stuffed with tender lobster meat in a brandy cream sauce with artichoke hearts and bits of tomato. A single cannelloni ($6.50) came on a big plate, the better to spread out the flavorful red and white sauces that topped the tender noodle stuffed with veal, beef and pork. Linguini with escarole ($10.75) was especially fragrant, tossed with olive oil, garlic and red pepper. Calamari ($7.50) was disappointing, barely breaded, on the chewy side, and the dipping sauce, advertised as “spicy,” was quite mild.
Diners may choose from five salads, and I can report on four of them. The spinach salad ($6.25) was the best, a delightful combination of fresh spinach, grilled red peppers, onion, walnuts, bits of gorgonzola and sliced avocado tossed with creamy Italian dressing. The tomato salad ($6.25) wasn’t quite what one would hope for in July, though the fresh mozzarella added flavor. A mixed green salad ($4.50) was fine, except the tomatoes, again, were not as flavorful as they might have been. A green-bean salad ($5.75) was spectacular, a home-style combination of green beans, chunks of potato, tomato, onion and cheese all tossed together with a piquant balsamic vinaigrette.
Ordinarily, osso buco ($21.95) might not appeal in the summer, but on a cool, rainy night, it seemed like a perfect choice. The veal shank was fork-tender, falling off the bone onto a bed of Italian rice with saffron threads. Tenderloin medallions ($19.95) brought two good-sized pieces of beef topped with a silky sauce made with wild mushrooms and brandy. Mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli alongside all were hot and flavorful. Veal scaloppine ($16.95) also was fork-tender, topped with cheese and served in a white wine sauce with shiitake mushrooms. The same selection of vegetables came alongside here. A true taste treat was the homemade Italian sausage with white beans, escarole and fresh herbs ($14.95), comfort food that melted in the mouth.
Full bar service is available at Dominic’s Trattoria. An eight-page wine list includes a large selection of red and white wines from Italy and California, with other choices, as well. One night, we tried the 1997 Avignonesi Sangiovese ($26), a light Italian red wine. Another evening, we opted for the 1997 Rombauer Merlot ($45), giving the nod to Irma and her family. Wine by the glass ranges from $5 to $6. By the bottle, wine costs from $20 to $200.
We sampled two desserts: creme brulee and Jackie’s dessert, each $4.75. Creme brulee was standard, exactly what you would expect. Jackie’s dessert, so named because it is her recipe, was a wonderful treat — chocolate cake and white cake with a creamy, rum-enhanced frosting combined with walnuts and chocolate shavings.
2001 FINE DINING HALL OF FAME
By Carolyn Walkup
Nation’s Restaurant News
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to a gray haired Dean Martin, Giovanni Dominic Galati works the room at Dominic’s, his classic Italian restaurant in St. Louis.
Obviously enjoying the work he has done there for the last 30 years, the personable Galati greets and seats arriving customers and occasionally checks on each table to make sure everything is going smoothly.
“I am having a lot of fun doing this,” Galati says in Sicilian-accented English . “What do I most like about it? I like the people.”
Believing that a restaurant’s owner should be a visible presence, Galati is there almost every night, often pitching in with whatever chores need to be done, from answering the phone to helping with tableside service. There’s no task, no matter how menial, in the 160 seat restaurant that Galati won’t do when necessary.
Practicing what he preaches to his employees, he treats customers as he would want to be treated, he says, describing his style of service as “personal, but yet professional.”
Galati says he routinely turns down offers of tips from customers seeking to get a good table. “When someone tries to give me $10 for a table, I say it’s not necessary. We will do our best no matter what.”
Like most of his employees, Galati worked his way up from the bottom when he first came to the United States from Sicily in 1964. He began working in restaurants to support himself, and by 1971, he and his bride, Jackie, were able to realize their American dream of owning their own restaurant. Their daughters Maria and Gina now also are involved in the business.
Located on The Hill, St. Louis’ close-knit Italian neighborhood, Dominic’s is one of the few fine dining restaurants in the vicinity. The two-story post-World War II structure built as a home previously had been a restaurant owned by the Berra family of Yogi Berra fame.
“We took it over, and we lived upstairs, which was a disaster,” to the dismay of his wife, who much preferred the house they sold in order to buy the restaurant Galati says, “I told her not to worry, and I would buy her another house in a few years.
“I had a lot of confidence, and I knew I would succeed,” he says. “We were young, and we took a chance.”
“We worked very hard and made it what it is now. Now it’s one of the oldest restaurants on The Hill that hasn’t changed hands.”
The Galatis decorated the four-room restaurant themselves in tasteful Florentine fashion, without benefit of a professional designer. Over the years they amassed an enviable collection of original oil paintings, statues, stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers and other luxurious accouterments to create an elegant restaurant.
Galati repeats a true story explaining how his industriousness once got him in trouble with the law. “When we were young, we saw a demand for good wines, and we didn’t have room to store the wine,” he says. “So I got some of the employees together and we dug a hold under the kitchen to make a wine cellar.”
When a building inspector got wind of the project, he noticed the now unsupported kitchen floor was almost collapsing. Galati got some professional construction help, and that wine cellar – and the kitchen – still stand today.
The attractive decor in the front of the house often surprises guests who expect a more modest atmosphere. “When people walk in from the outside for the first time, they are so delighted to see a restaurant like this because there are not too many places like it anymore.” Galati says. “There are no windows, so it’s like you are away from everything.”
The romantic restaurant, where classical or opera music plays softly in the background, has been the scene of countless marriage proposals and anniversary celebrations. Yet it also serves as a destination for business dinners, especially for entertaining special clients.
Tuxedoed servers finish all dishes tableside in the classic style that ensures that all foods are served at the right temperature. It also adds a touch of showmanship to the occasion.
Galati deliberately does not describe preparation details on the printed menu because he wants the servers to communicate verbally with the guests. “It keeps the waiters in contact with the customers,” he explains.
The dishes represent all regions of Italy. “If a customer doesn’t see something he especially likes, the kitchen usually can make it,” Galati says.
Best-selling items include a combination of the old and the new – pastas such as tortellini in broth with spinach; osso buco, veal saltimbocca, finely sliced veal sprinkled with sage, topped with prosciutto and braised in white wine; and daily fish specials. Everything is made from scratch except the ice creams, Galati says.
The good reputation Dominic’s established attracted many celebrities to the restaurant in the years when they performed in St. Louis at the Muny, a 12,000 seat outdoor musical theater. Among Dominic’s guests were Dean Martin and the rest of the old Rat Pack; Liza Minnelli; Tony Bennett, who has become Galati’s friend and tennis partner; Gene Kelly; Yul Brynner; Rock Hudson; and Jane Powell.
“I used to stay open just to get them in my place,” Galati says. One year around Thanksgiving he honored a request from Sammy Davis, Jr. to make a turkey dinner for himself and about 15 friends. “He was so delighted,” Galati recalls.
Sports greats, especially from the St. Louis Cardinals, continue to dine at Dominic’s. Galati recalls one special night when his idols Stan Musial, Tony La Russa, Red Schoendiest and Joe Torre all were dining in the restaurant the same night. “That was the thrill of my life,” he says.
Galati makes a point of thanking everyone who comes to Dominic’s for choosing his restaurant. “People have to drive here,” he says. “We make sure it’s worth their while.”
“I make sure that everyone knows who I am,” Galati explains. “It gives them a sense of security when they see that someone who owns the business is there. They know that somebody is watching.”
Although Galati has promoted many employees, he keeps control of the kitchen as his own responsibility. “That’s what really made me a success,” He says.
Rather than turn away patrons who don’t adhere to Dominic’s dress code, Galati says he bends the rules and allows men who are not wearing jackets to dine there. “It’s hard to get people to dress up today, and you can’t keep enough jackets on hand,” he notes.
However, if a man comes in wearing shirtsleeves on his first visit, the next time he is likely to be wearing a jacket, Galati says, after seeing how the others are dressed.
Another change is that most people are eating lighter. “We do more grilling and make sauces lighter,” he observes. “We have changed. But it’s amazing that there are still some people who want the old-fashioned dishes, like lobster in cream sauce. It’s rich, but people love it.”
The wine list now totals close to 300 wines, primarily from Italy and California. Galati seeks out small vineyards that offer good values. He also looks for wines with Wine Spectator ratings above 90.
Tony May, owner of San Domenico in New York, who knows Galati and has been to Dominic’s comments that Galati is to be commended for his staying power and for his efforts to update his menu continuously. “He serves the type of food that Italians eat today, not the way they used to eat,” May says. “He has not remained behind like so many Italian restaurants in this country.”
While Galati is keeping Dominic’s a classic fine-dining restaurant, he hopped on the casual bandwagon four years ago by opening Dominic’s Trattoria in suburban Clayton, which is open for lunch as well as dinner.
To keep on top of contemporary Italian food trends, he visits Italy and other European countries every year. “We always bring back something new,” he says.
2003 Restaurateur Of The Year
Lou Grone, President of the Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association has announced that Dominic and Jackie Galati have been selected as the Restaurateurs of the Year for 2003.
The award is given by fellow restaurateurs in the association and is based on contributions to the food service industry as well as civic and philanthropic activities.
Dominic and Jackie were honored at the annual inaugural dinner on Sunday, February 8, 2004 at the St. Louis Airport Marriot.
The Greater St. Louis Restaurant Association is an affiliated chapter of the Missouri Restaurant Association.