STATEN ISLAND, NY — To fully appreciate Don Cheech, a new patron must get acquainted with its details. Chef Massimo Felici steps into The Dish this week to connect us with his new Rosebank restaurant and its menu. Plus, he’s thrilled to show a few behind-the-scenes look at some of its bells and whistles.
But first up, why the name “Don Cheech”?
Felici says it’s a term of endearment. The Florence, Italy native explains, “I use that — I got that from people on Staten Island so I started using it. Since it’s the first time I’m opening an American-style Italian restaurant I thought I’d carry through 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 work their way into lunches which should begin at noon on Tuesday, May 24.
LITTLE ITALY CHARM
Staten Islanders might remember the address for its former iterations — most recently Phunky Elephant and, in prior times to that, Albostan and, a separate venture, Steven Dominick’s. Under his tenure of him as owner, Felici overhauled the first floor and subterranean kitchen to completely change the flow and feel of the spaces. The fresh look, lighting and outdoor seating offer tiny surprises that collectively lend an old school, Little Italy charm to the place.
Felici says, “A lot of brass accents and a lot of woodwork give it that soft, warm and inviting look. There’s soft lighting everywhere.” The chef eschews the din and clubbiness of loud music in a restaurant and he emphasized a comparatively more hushed environment geared to convivial chatter and conversation.
Before jumping into the food, a tour comes from Felici. Starting at the front door at a place nine months in the making, a red awning stretches to the curb and a hinged, neon sign hangs from the building, two details hardly found in modern, New York City restaurants. Walking through a small lobby, patrons can sidle up to a leather chair at the lounge or shoot over to 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 froster and a marble-like, quartz-topped bar (it cannot be stained) are things at which to marvel. For the brown liquor connoisseur, there are several top-notch and downright rare selections over which to linger. To name a few, there are George T. Stagg, Eagle Rove’s and Pappy Van Winkle’s brands of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey plus Welles Wheat Bourbon.
Patrons can sit indoors under authentic tin ceilings in one of two plush areas with brass on red tones and lots at which to look. A front dining room and partitioned bar with exposed brickwork has room for 40 guests. Past a glass enclosed wine room of Italian and California wines is a small hall that delivers one into a back dining area, a space for 35 and accommodations for tables of 10 and 12.
Outdoors, Felici gets into his new “toy” on The Dish, a bright white pergola imported from Turkey with a retractable roof, walls and windows. The bright white structure amplifies the sunshine and a white-walled bar to one side. The chef hopes for a garden to creep along walls covered in trellis work.
GETTING DOWN WITH THE FOOD
Felici presents an extensive menu of Italian “Americanized” eats with appetizers ranging from $8 to $24 — butterflied, head-on, stuffed shrimp over fennel-orange salad, seafood salad, raw oysters and clams plus seared beef carpaccio and Fritto Misto of mixed seafood and vegetables. Soups and salads run an average of $15 to include escarole and beans and lentil soups plus Caprese and Caesar salads. Pastas start with the Pennette Arrabbiata ($18) and build to pillowy Stuffed Gnocchi Cacio & Pepe ($25) with a Spicy Cavatappi Vokda ($24) with optional supplements like Kaluga Caviar ($25), shrimp ($3) and chicken ($10.)
Entrees include classic chicken parm ($24), St. Louis ribs with vinegar peppers ($34) and beef like The Wagyu Burger ($24), Steak Diane with a 16-ounce prime NY strip ($52) and Tomahawk for Two (market price. ) Desserts are made in house.
Valet parking is offered daily — even during lunch. For now hours are 5 pm to 9:30 pm for dinner from Tuesday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 10:30 pm and Sundays until 9 pm
Don Cheech is located at 1271 Bay St., Rosebank; 718-285-4401.
Scroll below to see images of the food presented on this episode of The Dish. It can be viewed live from the Advance Facebook page at 11:30 am each Wednesday or in reruns on SILIVE.com.
Pamela Silvestri is Advance Food Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.