Don Cheech has made Rosebank his home with Americanized Italian cuisine | The dish
STATEN ISLAND, NY — To fully appreciate Don Cheech, a new client must become familiar with his details. Chef Massimo Felici enters The dish this week to introduce us to his new Rosebank restaurant and his menu. Plus, he’s excited to show some behind-the-scenes footage of some of his bells and whistles.
But first, why the name “Don Cheech”?
Felici says it’s an endearing term. The native of Florence, Italy explains, “I use it – I got it from the people in Staten Island, so I started using it. Since this is my first time opening an American-style Italian restaurant, I thought I would continue with the theme. And it’s a catchy name.
Don Cheech comes to 1271 Bay St. in its inaugural week for dinner only. The crew will head to lunches which are scheduled to start at noon on Tuesday 24 May.
THE CHARM OF LITTLE ITALY
The Staten Islanders may remember the address of its older iterations – most recently Phunky Elephant and, before that, Albostan and, a separate company, Steven Dominick’s. Under his tenure as owner, Felici overhauled the first floor and underground kitchen to completely change the flow and feel of the spaces. The fresh look, lighting, and outdoor seating provide little surprises that collectively give the place the old-school charm of Little Italy.
Felici says, “Lots of brass accents and lots of woodwork give it a soft, warm and inviting look. There is dim lighting everywhere. The chef eschews the din and clubbiness of loud music in a restaurant and he has emphasized a relatively more subdued environment focused on conversation and convivial conversation.
Before getting into the food, a turn comes from Felici. From the front door of a venue that has been under construction for nine months, a red awning extends to the sidewalk and a hinged neon sign hangs from the building, two details rarely found in modern New York restaurants. Strolling through a small lobby, guests can sit in a leather chair in the lounge or head to the docking station to sit in one of the dining areas.
The bar offers unique amenities, by certain standards. For the catering grunt, an automatic glass ice cube and a bar made of marble and covered with quartz (it cannot be stained) are things to marvel at. For the brown liquor connoisseur, there are several top notch and downright rare selections to linger over. To name a few, there are the George T. Stagg, Eagle Rove and Pappy Van Winkle brands of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey plus Welles Wheat Bourbon.
Guests can sit indoors under authentic tin ceilings in one of two plush areas with brass over red tones and plenty to look at. A dining room at the front and a partitioned bar with exposed bricks can accommodate 40 guests. Past a glass-enclosed wine cellar of Italian and Californian wines is a small room that offers one in a back dining room, space for 35, and accommodations for tables of 10 and 12.
Outside, Felici steps into her new “toy” on The Dish, a crisp white pergola imported from Turkey with a retractable roof, walls and windows. The glossy white structure amplifies the sun and a white-walled bar to one side. The chef hopes a garden will creep along the trellis-covered walls.
GET DOWN WITH FOOD
Felici presents an extensive menu of “Americanized” Italian dishes with appetizers ranging from $8 to $24 – butterfly-stuffed shrimp, head on fennel-orange salad, seafood salad, raw oysters and clams, as well as seared beef carpaccio and Fritto Misto of mixed seafood and vegetables. Soups and salads average $15 to include escarole, bean and lentil soups as well as Caprese and Caesar salads. Pasta starts with the Pennette Arrabbiata ($18) and turns into Stuffed Pillows Cacio & Pepe Gnocchi ($25) with a Spicy Cavatappi Vokda ($24) with optional extras like Kaluga Caviar ($25), Prawns ( $3) and chicken ($10).
Appetizers include classic chicken parm ($24), St. Louis ribs with pickled peppers ($34), and beef like The Wagyu Burger ($24), Steak Diane with 16-ounce NY Strip ($52) and Tomahawk for two (market price.) Desserts are homemade.
Valet parking is offered daily, even during lunch. For now, the hours are 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m. and Sunday until 9:00 p.m.
Don Cheech is located at 1271 Bay St., Rosebank; 718-285-4401.
Pamela Silvestri is editor-in-chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at [email protected].