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Wine & Swine -- Dominick's Roasts a Pig

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To celebrate its new Dago wine vintages and the start of weekend brunches at Dominick's (8715 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, next to Jerry's Deli, (310-652-2335), with valet and street parking), Exec Chef Brandon Boudet and Co-Owner Warner Ebbink roasted a suckling pig on their terrace Saturday afternoon. My ears perk up when I hear those words, "roast pig," and I envision the crispy, crackling skin and moist, smoked meat beneath it. "I got two 60-pound whole suckling pigs from a nearby farm," the chef said. "We roasted the first last night for about six hours over a slow fire of oak and charcoal, then let it settle before serving it today. The second is on the spit right now." Saturday I enlisted buddy Brian Wald to share the lunch repast with me, and we feasted on a platter of the crackling pork, with bruschetta topped with saba reduction and salsa verde. Fresh oysters were offered (a half-dozen for $12), a butter lettuce-and-arugula salad ($5), and we had a side dish of Polenta Cake ($5) with crème fraiche. Bottles of their new vintage Dago red, white or Prosecca were $12. They serve brunch from 9 am to 3 pm every weekend.

Chef Brandon Boudet with roast pig

Exec Chef Brandon Boudet with whole roast suckling pig on spit.

When people ask me, a restaurant critic, where I dine on my dime when I am eating out, one of the first places I mention is Dominick's. I have a long history here, starting in the '50s, but the present Italian incarnation is certainly the most diner-friendly version of them all. My ex, a notoriously hard eater to please, dines here with husband and/or girlfriends about once a week just to have their Whitefish Piccata ($19). They have daily specials, and if I'm at loose ends on a Saturday night I will come for a bowl of lobster with squid ink spaghetti. I'll get a bottle or two of their house wines, Dago Red and Dago White ($12). The Tuesday 'special' of Osso Bucco with saffron risotto is sublime, a whole fish on Friday is a treat, and the Glazed Beef Brisket on Sunday will put your Jewish grandmother to shame. (Monday is Spinach Lasagna, Wednesday is Chicken Parmesan, while Thursday is a heavenly Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli.) Don't neglect the dessert of a Ricotta Fritter with chocolate hazelnut sauce, Apple Berry Crunch, or Banana Cream Pie.

Before I tell you a little about the history of this place, I must mention a few of their regular dishes... the Grilled Artichoke ($12) is renowned, a split globe grilled until tender. Spaghetti & Meatballs ($15) may be the best version in town, while the Hanger Steak ($18) and the massive 12 oz. Prime New York Steak ($38) is the equal of any hunk of beef here about. This is a restaurant for all people at all times, and I just don't know how they do it... stay open most of the time and serve up such succulent food. They guys also own Little Dom's and the 101 Coffee Shop in Silverlake. Incidentally, their $15 three-course Sunday dinners are legendary: this past week was Fresh English Pea Salad with truffle cheese, Spit-Roasted Leg of Lamb, and Buttermilk Panna Cotta. House wines are $12 and Moretti Bee is $3. Yes, you heard me right, this is a $15 dinner!

Roast Pig with bruschetta

Plate of crackling, crispy roast pig with spicy bruschetta-toasted bread.

For 63 years, since 1948, Dominick's has been a haven for neighborhood regulars and the Hollywood elite. Truman was president and gas was 18 cents a gallon when Dominick Mazzi opened its doors. For years, the notoriously irritable owner was very selective about whom he allowed to sit in his uncomfortable booths and order the fabulous steaks and chops. Frank and the Rat Pack, sometimes with Marilyn; Lew Wasserman and Ray Stark, yes; Jay Weston no. At least not until Billy and Audrey Wilder sponsored me and I was allowed to occasionally come, usually with Dinah Shore. When Brandon and Warner bought it in 2004, they made it into one of the city's most subtly exciting, reasonable dining spots, with its retro-hip little dining room and two warm terraces. They are open for dinner Sunday through Thursday from 6 pm to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 6 pm to 1 am... late dining here is such a pleasure.

While you won't be able to enjoy a a roast pig except on special occasions, I do promise that you will enjoy some of the most delicious and well-priced Italian-American food in L.A. in a delightful setting. Dominick's continues to be a 'find' of a lifetime... so why would anyone go to Jerry's next door?

To subscribe to Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter ($70 for twelve monthly issues), email him at jayweston@sbcglobal.net.