• 2335 Arthur Avenue
• Bronx, NY 10458
• (718) 733-2807 •

My girlfriend loves Italian food. Loves it, frankly, to an almost unnatural degree. So, me being the thoughtful guy that I am, suggested that we road trip it up to Arthur Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx. Arthur Avenue is often called New York's "real" Little Italy, and I suspect that this has as much to do with it's being an actually historically Italian area as much as with Manhattan's Little Italy dwindling into nothing more than a proud, albeit pitiful, part of Chinatown. In any event, Arthur Avenue's famous, Lutsy likes Italian grub, and I'd never dined up there. So I did some research, found that Dominick's on literally everyone's "must try" lists, and off we went.

Dominick's shtick, if you will, is that they're super old school. They're want you to feel like you've gone back in time and are having dinner at the restaurant that Grandma and Grandpa would have set up after sailing past the Statue of Liberty in 1925. They don't have menus, they just verbally tell you what the kitchen has decided to make that day. They don't have normal tables, they have communal ones where everyone sits next to each other, like we're all part of the community. They don't take credit cards; such things didn't exist in 1925. In fact, they don't even give you a bill. You're just shown a number on an index card and presume that the waiter did the math correctly. But even if he didn't,how would  you know? There's no menu, so there are no prices. For all you know, they could have comped you a dish or charged you twice as much. Still, fear not. I'm sure that the IRS never audits Grandma.

So what's on this secret menu? Exotic dishes like fried calamari, veal marsala, and, on occasion (but not on this occasion) lasagna. Okay, yes, I'm making fun. But that's because Dominick's literally has the same menu that the pizza place down the block from me has, except that they don't serve pizza and they don't take credit cards.

When we arrived, a gruff guy at the entrance told us that the earliest table was a half an hour away, grunted a number at us like he was doing us a favor, and said that we could wait upstairs where there's a bar. They'd call our number when a table opened up. Heading upstairs, we found not just a bar, but an entire second completely empty and unused dining room. There was absolutely no reason for anyone to be waiting at all, but it looks impressive for their to be a crowd of people trying valiantly to get in. After all, if you don't have to wait for a table, how good can the food be? We took a seat at the bar and ordered some drinks while we waited for a walkie talkie to demand our party head down to the dining room. Lutsy ordered a glass of wine that, if I didn't see it come out of a bottle, I'd have sworn it came from a box. Meanwhile, I ordered a Peroni and will never again complain about Rolling Rock.

The table we were eventually shown to had a plastic sheet over it that reminded me of what my parents had on their kitchen table when I was a kid in the 1980s. Our waiter was a stereotype right out of central casting a la Mario Brothers, who started off by hovering over our table silently, expecting us to just tell him what we wanted. Remember, there's no menu, but I anticipated this and already had a decision squared away. "We'll split a baked clams and I'll have a lasagna," I told him. Sorry, no lasagna. That's a Sunday dish. "What else would-a you like? We have chicken, veal, seafood..." Translation. "We have meat. Then we put on sauce."

The Baked Clams were legitimately very good. Served in a sea of garlic with a quartered lemon and a pound of bread, it was easily the best thing I'd eat that day and if you go (which you really shouldn't bother doing), then this is what you need to get. "Can we get some butter for the bread?" Lutsy asked. "I get you Parkay!" laughed the waiter, slapping my shoulder. "She no knows Parkay. Too young!" Suddenly the age difference between myself and my girlfriend was apparent. Margarine, having gone out of fashion when I was twelve means that nobody outside of a Glen Oaks nursing home has any idea what Parkay is. But I did. Foil wrapped bricks of frozen solid butter arrived a few minutes later.

For the first time in a long time, Lutsy ordered her entree, the Chicken Parmesan with the same sort of begrudged facial expression that one has when one finally settles on watching a BBC nature documentary after spending twenty minutes pouring through Netflix's seemingly endless morass of shitty stand-up comedy specials. It came on a plate, covered in cheese and sauce, over a serving of spaghetti. So exciting that I feel the need to mention that the plate was oval shaped and off-white. Are you on fire yet. The spaghetti made the sauce a little more watery than it should have been, but it wasn't bad. Of course, have you ever had bad chicken parm? For myself, I ordered the Chicken Cacciatore, a chicken and mushroom dish served wit a boiled potato. Our water made sure to tell us came with chicken "on the bone, the way it should be! Other places make it, but not with meat on the bone." Well, with such attention to detail, I'm sure that it will be simply magnificent, right? Nah. it was chicken, sorta bland, with a few mushrooms. Honestly, the potatoes were the best part of the dish.

When the bill came the waiter pulled out an index card and pointed to one of the many numbers on it and you just have to hope that you have enough cash to cover whatever number they pointed to. To be funny, our waiter pointed to a completely different number when showing the bill to Lutsy. "The wives are rich with our money!" he told me, laughing. But here's the bottom line: every dish was $18. The wine was $10 or $8, depending on whether you bought it at the bar or in the dining room. With tip, everything came to $100, drinks included.

In conclusion,  if you like the kind of red sauce Italian food that they'll sell you at the corner pizza place, served cafeteria style, a glass of cheap boxed wine, cramped quarters filled with tourists, and smart-alecky semi-condescending waiters, all while basking in the old world luxury of not being given the opportunity to check the cash-only bill to make sure that you were correctly charged, then Dominick's is right up your alley.


The other day I walked around the corner from my apartment and went into Mike's Pizzeria on Yellowstone Boulevard. I ordered the Chicken Parmesan. It came with some bread, a large side salad, and was joke-free. It cost $18 and was worth every penny.

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