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Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano Survives on Faith, Innovation, & a Mother’s Heart

Curbside pickup is available for orders placed to go. It has proven to be a viable option for those wishing to “take a little Dominic’s” home.

 

 

By Laurie Hanson • May 18, 2021

With a strong faith in God and family devotion, Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano in Cypress discovered they can weather any storm together.

Family-owned and operated, the restaurant celebrates their 30th anniversary this year, remaining open during the worst of COVID-19 through teamwork, creative innovation, and a mother’s heart.

“It was a scary time, not knowing how we would sustain such a blow as well as being able to take care of our staff while trying to keep the doors open,” said General Manager Lisa Cisneros, the eldest daughter of owner Angela Cesario. “We immediately cut down on our staff, putting them on leave, hoping to just be able to have the family and a few key employees [in order] to help cut costs while anticipating a huge drop in sales. But [we] had to call them all back within the first few days once we realized the demand was still here.”

“Once the pandemic hit, we learned we would have to close our dining room for an undisclosed amount of time,” she explained. “[Our] family got together to discuss how we would move forward. During our family discussion, we decided to create some family meal options, offer curbside pickup, expanded our 3rd party delivery options (Doordash and Grubhub), and even added a pizza kit within the first few weeks.”

“I wish we had a live streaming video to watch as our dining room quickly turned into an assembly line,” Cisneros said. “It was awesome to watch. Before, we only had one bagger who put all the takeout orders together. We morphed and turned that position into a five [person] operation. We now had a hot food bagger, cold food bagger, bag completer, a bread person, and a curbside person. We also had a phone person and cashier.”

Among their innovative changes was continuing their wine tastings as three virtual events, where they sold tickets and handed out glasses through curbside pick-up within a care package that included beers/wines and small appetizer bites to conduct the tasting event on Zoom. Gina Cesario is the family member who has put in a great deal of work for all the wine tastings.

“Although it is not entirely the same, it gave our guests a little something to look forward to and they [the tastings] were unique and fun,” she added. “[And] ever since adding the bar, we have done private wine tasting events and included live music a few times a month. We just [re-]started having live music this past weekend. [It] was our first time since the pandemic started.”

With each passing week, Cisneros has seen more people choosing to dine in at Dominic’s, ever since Orange County moved into the red tier. They have subsequently kept their dine in tables socially distant for the safety of their guests and anticipate more dining in as the county continues to move into less restrictions. The patio remains open for dining in, and their takeout business is ongoing as well.

A new feature to dining in is their onsite reservation system. If guests desiring to dine in must wait, the staff enters their name and cell phone number into a tablet which texts them when a table is ready. This has helped cut down on groups hovering around other guests, allowing them to wait in their own vehicles or walk around the neighboring plaza, Cisneros said.

Something else the restaurant came up with are “Take & Bake” catering trays, an idea born in May 2020 to help families plan a special Mother’s Day.

“This was intended to relieve a little pressure from our takeout orders that we expected to have,” she explained. “They are catering trays prepared ahead of time which can be picked up a day or two before, then baked in the oven with the instructions we provide. It makes a great option for our customers, and we have continued to offer this option ever since.”

Cisneros went on to say that many have chosen the “Take & Bake” catering for when they go out of town or camping, and for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon event (when the restaurant is closed). It can even be given as gifts to family or friends who are struggling or who have had a loss, she said.

Their family meal deals, and take-home pizza kits have also been a huge hit especially because they come with Dominic’s own sauce and salad dressings, something that gives customers a little taste of Dominic’s while cooking at home. Though they have had to make a few adjustments to discover what works from what did not, the restaurant consistently satisfies their guests’ experience and takeout needs, according to Cisneros.

“All these ideas we have implemented have really [contributed] to the progress and success of us being able to sustain [during] this pandemic,” she said.

But at the heart of Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano is owner-mother Angela Cesario who leads operations with her adult children, Lisa Cisneros, Gina Cesario, Francesca Cesario and their brother, Michael Cesario. Angela came from a small town in Sicily who immigrated to the United States as a child and eventually came of age in New York. As a young girl, she always helped her mother and older sister prepare meals for the family. She also worked at her father’s delicatessen in Astoria. She came to California in 1978.

“Many of our recipes began from her family recipes and have expanded over the years to include creative new ideas to always try and keep a fresh menu with customers’ everchanging needs,” added Cisneros. Noteworthy are their unique homemade doughy bread sticks, which are made fresh from scratch each day.

In 1991, Angela started the restaurant with only a couple of employees as a pizzeria in a small strip mall on the corner of Ball Avenue and Walker Street on Cypress, next to the Hostess Wonder Bread Outlet (since gone). They began with four small booths, two small tables and three bar counter stools where guests could watch pizzas being made. In 1998, they more than doubled their size, having a total of 16 tables, and added a patio to accommodate the overflow. In 2017, they expanded adding a bar side with an additional nine tables and 12 bar seats. Since first opening, Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano has evolved into a much larger restaurant with about 35 employees.

 

The bar area seats 12 people and has nine additional tables to comfortably seat customers indoors. Courtesy photos by Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano.

 

“We have had so many new guests find us during this [pandemic], while also serving so many of our regulars and local people,” said Cisneros. “In the upcoming months, as we begin to reopen more and things become safer with people beginning to feel comfortable, we hope that we can grow and improve our customer service, to get the chance to know more of our guests, and continue to grow with new, innovative ideas.”

Cisneros credits her mother as being the main reason they have remained strong during the pandemic. “Everyone loves her,” she said. “And it has always been our main goal that guests feel like family when they eat with us.”

“During the pandemic, all we could do was send food out the door, and not hug and greet our guests,” added Cisneros. “Although that was sad for us, it didn’t seem to hinder our guests from supporting us still. Our customers have been so wonderful during this time. We all feel so blessed.”

“We feel that our regular and new customers are the ones to be praised as they knew it was a difficult time for many, especially small business owners,” she said. “They made sure to frequent regularly. Without the support of our regular customers, friends, family, and local community, we may not have [been able to] sustain [through] this pandemic. For that, words cannot express how grateful we are.”

For more information on Dominic’s Ristorante Italiano, please visit online at www.dominicscypress.com.

 

Below is a preview of this Friday’s Los Cerritos Community News print newspaper, page 9.

 

 

 

 

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