John Besh And Alon Shaya Partner To Open Domenica
With Alon Shaya
, former chef de cuisine at Besh Steak
in New Orleans, as executive chef and partner with John Besh, Domenica will open in June 2009, serving an extensive menu of rustic Italian fare in a lively, open dining room seating about 120 at private or long communal tables.
is smitten to the point of obsession with the unpretentious country fare he
encountered during his
year-long sabbatical in Italy, and the dishes and setting of Domenica are smartly fitted to suit his
"This is exactly the sort of food everyone likes to eat - simple, approachable and honest," Shaya
says, "prepared with skill and infinite care."
spent time northeast of Milan, traveling as much as he
could to places like Venice, Tuscany and Trentino Alto Adige, tasting, watching and learning.
favored the small Italian towns and countryside establishments where proud artisans have created their products and, in turn, dishes under the same azure skies in the shade of the same ancient cedars using the same ingredients, techniques and equipment handed down through the generations.
"These were not Michelin-starred restaurants," Shaya
explains, "but what I came to understand was authentic Italian culture."
Working in these tiny, family-run operations, Shaya has been privy to authentic, long-established recipes and techniques.
Performing all tasks as a full-time line cook, he
has had the opportunity to perfect the methods for perfectly crusted pizza, exquisitely handmade pastas, pillowy gnocchi, fire-roasted vegetables and creamy risotto.
The chef and his
staff are not all that is awaiting Domenica's opening: there is also a small stockpile of 1,500 pounds of salumi slowly curing, and prosciuttos and hams that have been aging for close to 12 months at the Besh Restaurant Group's
shared smoke house at La Provence in Lacombe, La. Shaya
packed them away before his
Italian adventure and is now refining his
menu and preparing additional cured meats, hand-crafted Italian style cheeses, liqueurs and other time-intensive traditional Italian ingredients that cannot be hurried but which are integral to the authentic country Italian fare he
learned "living over the store."
"There's a strong sense of community in rural Italy, just as there is here in New Orleans," Shaya
observes, "and this will be a place to rub elbows with neighbors - a loud, fun, boisterous and happy place."