An old Italian gem in Oxnard
Attention to detail
By Michael Sullivan 03/20/2014
Dominick’s Italian Restaurant
477 N. Oxnard Blvd.
Sometimes, choosing restaurants at random can be somewhat of a hazard. Some of the older ones are just holding on for dear life while newer ones are just getting their bearings. When playing the odds, it’s always good to have recommendations. Recently, I went looking for a few — which became a fairly popular Facebook post — and one in particular stood out: Dominick’s Italian Restaurant, which has been in business since 1949. I may have heard about it in passing, but I was by no means familiar with it. In fact, when I used to work at a restaurant while in college, I used to regularly pass the unassuming and oddly situated — next to a used-car dealership — restaurant on Oxnard Boulevard. But I would never have given it a second thought — I am glad this one didn’t slip through the cracks, so much kudos for the recommendation.
My family and I headed over there around 5:30 on a Thursday night. Parking was somewhat of a difficult task since the front of the building is right on the boulevard. As we were coming from the freeway, we had to make that first turn before the dealership and make our way to the back. There is plenty of parking, it would seem, as long as you can find it. We weren’t so impressed by the plain white exterior, but once inside — with the bare vaulted ceiling, cute booths, open-air kitchen enclosed by a wall of red bricks, candlelit shelves of red wine — we fell in love with the quaint yet rustic atmosphere.
Just as quickly as we were taken to our booth, a loaf of warm, soft bread arrived to take the edge off our appetites as we perused the menu. Making decisions here is no easy task, especially if noodles and marinara are your thing. We started off with three appetizers, which turned out to be too much when it came time to eat our dinner (and we still had leftovers of the appetizers). Not that we were aiming for gluttonous, but when we found out that everything is homemade — the bread crumbs, the sausage, even the bread and the salad dressing — we couldn’t help ourselves. We chose the fried zucchini, sausage and meatballs.
As you can imagine, any eatery that is willing to make so many dishes, even the dressing, in house will pay especially close attention to everything, and you can taste it. The fresh zucchini, cooked al dente, was covered lightly in bread crumbs, fried just enough to make it lightly crispy and not greasy. It renewed my faith in fried zucchini — really. The homemade ranch was a special touch. The spicy sausage was prepared and cooked perfectly, tender yet firm, packing a punch with red pepper flakes, or so we guessed, and an air of anise or perhaps fennel. The meatballs practically melted in our mouths, soft, almost like pâté, with a hint of oregano. The tangy hearty marinara that came with both the sausage and the meatballs complemented both of the dishes. Our server, Frances, wrapped up our leftover appetizers for us. Again, attention to detail, even in the service, was exceptional.
For dinner, we ordered a small pizza, meat lasagna and eggplant parmesan. It took only a few minutes after we finished our appetizers for our dinners to be ready. Baked in a brick oven, our thin-crust pizza was a seamless combination of crispy and fluffy at the same time. We ordered anchovies and fresh tomatoes — we could have sworn the anchovies were fished locally and prepared in house. I am not a big fan of anchovies, but if someone was trying to sell me on them, Dominick’s would be the place to do it. There was just enough of the sauce and mozzarella cheese; my mouth is watering thinking of it. Too bad they don’t deliver.
The eggplant parmesan may well have been a work of art — layers of ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, moist and delicate eggplant, lightly covered in bread crumbs. It was tender and delicious. Instead of a side of noodles, the server recommended a medley of garden fresh vegetables, including mushrooms, red bell peppers, zucchini and broccoli sautéed in butter and perhaps a little lemon. It could have been a dish by itself, with several different flavors and textures. I ordered the meat lasagna, layered with ground beef, fresh tomatoes and just a little bit of sauce, covered in melted mozzarella. The noodles were soft, almost like butter. None of us could finish our dinners so we had leftovers for days.
The overall experience? I don’t like to write “glowing” reviews, but this is one of them. Though it was just slightly pricey for a penny pincher like me, the thought and care and process behind how everything was prepared and cooked, plus the service — all of it was remarkable. But please don’t take my word for it; check it out for yourself. If this is the way Dominick’s has been doing business since the beginning, it’s no wonder it’s been around for 65 years.