In the Spring of 2012 two friends and I were traveling to rural Georgia for a wedding. To save money, we decided to do a partial roadtrip. Liz and I, were going to fly to Austin and meet up with Megan, then drive the rest of the way.
I took an earlier flight than Liz because she flying standby. So when she couldn’t get a flight out of Southern California into Austin, we told her to find any flight that would land her in a city on the road trip route that we had planned. She eventually found a flight into New Orleans.
Once we found each other in New Orleans, we were ready to sit down and eat! But with individual specialty diets (Vegan, Celiac, Corn Allergy) find a place was would be a challenge. Our hotel concierge recommended Domenica’s, which is where I first tried roast cauliflower, and was blown away! I had been surviving on fruit and raw vegetables so it brought tears to my eyes to find out that I could eat there, that we could all eat there.
Domenica’s Chef de Cuisine, Phillip Mariano and I were able to connect recently to discuss the restaurant, the reason for providing food for a multitude of diets, and about the food he cooks when he goes home.
EE: Good Morning Chef Philip! I came across your restaurant a few years ago with some friends. We had been searching for a restaurant that would fit all of our diets, and when we were told about Domenica’s we were beyond thrilled. Mary Lee Kitchen believes that everyone should have a space at the table. Do you feel that it is important for restaurants to meet people’s dietary restrictions?
PM: Yes. Restaurants should take care of the customers. I was raised in the hospitality industry, so I saw how important it is to take care of people. We shouldn’t be too proud to say yes to serving someone who has a different diet than we normally serve. Domenica’s is just one of Chef John Besh’s restaurants in New Orleans, so if we don’t have something for a customer, we can easily find it in the other restaurants. Plus, it’s not that hard to cook vegetables for someone.
EE: Tell me about where you grew up and what you meant by growing up in the hospitality industry?
PM: I grew up in New Orleans then moved to San Antonio, then back. When I was younger, my mother gardened and had her own chain of health food grocery stores and eventually managed one of Chef Besh’s restaurants in San Antonio, TX. She is where I learned that just because some people might have limitations, doesn’t mean that they can’t create something beautiful, like eggplants. I don’t like them, but I have learned to cook them in a beautiful way that makes them creamy and smooth. My dad managed the bar at the Port of Call in New Orleans. At 14 I was helping out, bussing tables, and cleaning.
EE: I know that running a restaurant requires you to put in long hours. How do you make sure that you still eat good, nutritious food and spend time with friends and family when you get home?
PM: Cooks don’t always have the most traditional meals. There is a community around food, but it looks different. Everything that we do, conversations, etc., revolve around food. We talk about how we can do things better. Having the structured sit down at 5:30 PM isn’t my reality, we stand around in the kitchen, eating and drinking together.
EE: What about your days off?
PM: Love to eat out. Going to eat at restaurants helps understand what else in the field. Experimenting with food. Trying new things on days off, instead of cooking at home. When I do cook at home, it is BBQ. The other night we got done early and we decided to BBQ. The only problem was that it wasn’t done until 1 AM.
EE: Other than Chef John Besh’s restaurants, what are your favorite New Orleans restaurant?
PM: Parkway Bakery and Tavern they have great po’ boys.
EE: Chef Phillip thank you for your time. I will make sure that I check out all of John Besh’s restaurants when I am in New Orleans next.
Make sure to check out Domenica when you are in New Orleans. It is a restaurant where all of your friends and family can eat together, no matter their dietary restrictions.