STATEN ISLAND, NY – To fully appreciate Don Cheech, a new client must become familiar with its details. Chef Massimo Felici enters The Dish this week to introduce us to his new Rosebank restaurant and menu. Plus, he’s excited to show off some of his gimmicks and a behind-the-scenes look.
But first, why the name “Don Cheech”?
Felici says it’s a term of endearment. The Florence-born Italian explains: “I use this — I got it from people on Staten Island, so I started using it. Since this is my first time opening an American-style Italian restaurant, I thought I’d follow through with the theme. And it’s a memorable name.”
Don Cheech is coming to 1271 Bay St. for dinner only during its opening week. The crew will be getting ready for lunch, which was scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24.
LITTLE ITALIAN CHARM
Staten Islanders may recall the address of previous 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 offer little surprises that combine to give the place an old-fashioned Little Italy charm.
Felici says: “Lots of brass accents and lots of woodwork give it that soft, warm and inviting look. There’s soft lighting everywhere.” The chef avoids the noise and club atmosphere of loud music in a restaurant, emphasizing a comparatively more subdued environment geared towards social chatter and conversation.
Before we go to eat, Felici gives us a tour. Beginning at the front door in a site that has taken nine months of work, a red awning extends to the curb and a hinged neon sign hangs from the building, two touches hard to find in modern New York restaurants. Guests passing through a small lobby can perch on a leather chair in the lounge or dart over to the host station to be seated in one of the dining rooms.
The bar offers unique amenities by some standards. For the food service grunt, an automatic glass freezer and a marble-like bar with a quartz top (it can’t be stained) are things to marvel at. For the brown spirit connoisseur, there are several premium and downright rare selections to linger over. To name a few, there are Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey brands like George T. Stagg, Eagle Rove and Pappy Van Winkle, as well as Welles Wheat Bourbon.
Guests can sit indoors under authentic tin ceilings in one of two plush areas with reddish brass and many landmarks. A front dining room and a separate bar with exposed brickwork can accommodate 40 guests. Behind a glass-enclosed wine room stocked with Italian and Californian wines is a small hall that leads into a rear dining area, seating for 35, and accommodation for 10 and 12 tables.
Outside, Felici climbs into his new “toy” on The Dish, a bright white pergola imported from Turkey with retractable roof, walls and windows. Bright white structure enhances sunshine and a white walled bar to one side. The chef hopes for a garden that meanders along the trellis-covered walls.
DOWN THE FOOD
Felici presents an extensive menu of Italian “Americanized” dishes with entrees ranging from $8 to $24 – butterfly-stuffed shrimp with heads over fennel and orange salad, seafood salad, raw oysters and clams, and seared beef carpaccio and fritto misto with mixed seafood and vegetables. Soups and salads average $15, including escarole and bean and lentil soups, as well as caprese and caesar salads. Pasta starts with the Pennette Arrabbiata ($18) and builds to pillowy stuffed gnocchi cacio & pepe ($25) with a flavorful cavatappi vokda ($24) with optional additions like kaluga caviar ($25), shrimp ($3) and Chicken ($10) on.
Entrees include classic Perfume Chicken ($24), St. Louis pork ribs with pickled peppers ($34), and beef choices like The Wagyu Burger ($24), Steak Diane with a 16-ounce Prime NY strip ($52) and Tomahawk for Two (market price). ) Desserts are prepared in house.
Valet parking is offered daily, including during lunch hours. Dinner hours are currently Tuesday to Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10:30pm and Sunday until 9pm from 5pm to 9:30pm
Don Cheech is located at 1271 Bay St., Rosebank; 718-285-4401.
Scroll down to see images of the food featured in this episode of The Dish. It can be watched live on the Advance Facebook page every Wednesday at 11:30am or in reruns on SILIVE.com.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.