210311DOMENICOS

During a recent visit to Domenico’s Italian Ristorante in Beloit, Beth Webb—a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes—picked up this order of eggplant parmigiana with a side of mostaccioli.

BELOIT

Simple and authentic describes the tasty fare at Domenico’s Italian Ristorante in Beloit.

This popular eatery, which has been open since the early 1970s, stands on East Grand Avenue just a hop, skip and a jump away from the heart of the city’s downtown. Visit its website and you will find a wonderful story—with photos—of a young couple arriving in the U.S. from Sicily, working hard to eventually open Domenico’s Italian Ristorante. The site also features homemade family recipes that have been passed down for generations.

During the pandemic, the Domenico’s dining room is closed to the public. Fortunately, you can still get its many delicious dishes to go.

Like everyone, we miss the days of gathering together at a table to share a meal. There isn’t much opportunity to take in the ambiance—everything from the lighting, the rich aromas coming from the kitchen, the table settings, the background music and chatter, decor. There is no sampling of appetizers, sipping on drinks or comparing meals. Quite a bit is lost when all you have is a drive-up window, but we can still appreciate the food.

I have to confess that our meals stayed hot on my trip back to Janesville. So hot, in fact, that a container in the box melted, and my passenger seat was covered in butter. Not the best start.

Then, because there weren’t any labels on the food containers, I did not get the delivery right. By the time I made it back to my house, what I really wanted was a glass of wine—which did end up going great with my order.

I started with the stuffed mushroom appetizer ($7.99), which consisted of five large mushroom caps filled with breadcrumbs, crab meat and Romano cheese. I didn’t taste the crab meat, but the mushroom caps still were pretty yummy.

I also had a huge container of eggplant parmigiana ($10.99) and a side order of mostaccioli with meat sauce. Eggplant Parmesan is always a bit risky because it can be heavy and/or greasy. I can never make it correctly myself, so I like to test it out when I find it on a menu.

Domenico’s version was not heavy, and the sauce and cheese topping were just right. The eggplant was nicely breaded, but I think it might have been slightly undercooked instead of being soft and silky. To be honest, it was actually better reheated the next day.

What delighted me was the slightly sweet meat sauce on the mostaccioli, and it made this side dish a winner. I love a bright, sweet tomato sauce and always order marinara over meat sauce because I think it is the tomato star. I was happy to be wrong this time. The finely ground meat blended right in and didn’t overwhelm.

Jennifer is no stranger to Domenico’s. She and a close friend have been frequenting this fine establishment for years, and it has never disappointed her.

Jennifer sometimes enjoys meatless meals and on this occasion, she opted for the penne primavera ($13.99). Her meal, chock-full of fresh veggies, was exactly what she had in mind.

The al dente penne pasta was served with an enormous amount of fresh, tender-crisp broccoli florets, sliced mushrooms, onions and quartered Roma tomatoes. It was all tossed in a light olive oil with fresh garlic and an Italian herb sauce. She had plenty of leftovers, which made for an awesome lunch the next day.

Nikki ordered the large Sicilian ($14.95), a specialty pizza featuring tomato, basil and mozzarella with an olive oil and garlic sauce instead of the traditional tomato sauce. It was seasoned with oregano and freshly ground black pepper that gave it a little bit of a kick.

Nikki was thrilled to find the pizza cut into squares instead of the usual pie slices. As a fan of crust, she likes having the option of eating the outside pieces over the softer inside ones.

Domenico’s homemade crust is crispy, crunchy and not too thick, and the toppings were distributed evenly so all of the flavors came through in every bite. The 14-inch large was just right for two people to enjoy fresh for dinner and then, like the rest of us, still leave plenty of leftovers for the next day.

With years of restaurant experience under its belt, it is no wonder Domenico’s is a staple in Beloit. It is currently open for takeout and curbside pickup, but as soon as indoor dining is an option, be sure to check out its mouth-watering buffet featuring a variety of Italian favorites. You’ll be happy you did.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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