Granite Bay boasts a slice of Italy with Dominick’s
Counter Culture: Deli’s the Real Deal
The Sacramento Bee
By Allen O. Pierleoni – Assistant Entertainment Editor
Food & Ambience: 4 Stars!
Raquel and Dominick Bellizzi own and operate Dominick’s Italian Market & Deli in Granite Bay. Italy has given the world Leonardo and Michelangelo, the Ferrari and the Lamborghini, Fellini and Rossellini, Loren and Lollobrigida, haute couture and the cheery notion of nine rings of hell. We would like to add the Italian delicatessen to that impressive list. The true Italian deli – found mostly in New York and New Jersey, and scattered around San Francisco – serves Italian cuisine and items imported from the old country, of course. But it also acts as a cultural center for its patrons. It’s often a stage for passionate conversation and customers connecting with others of similar heritage and interests, a social setting where the local news and gossip are shared. Don’t forget, many such delis are very much parts of their immediate neighborhoods.
Now along comes Dominick’s Italian Market & Deli, which opened Jan. 20 in Granite Bay. The husband-and-wife owners, Dominick and Raquel Bellizzi, are from New Jersey, a state that knows something about submarine sandwiches and cannoli.
So, what’s Dominick Bellizzi’s story?
“I worked in my uncle’s Italian deli in Bayonne, New Jersey,” he said on the phone Monday. “Then I worked for some other guys in their deli. I finally got a job in my field – computer science – in 1994.” Bellizzi climbed the corporate ladder and found himself stationed in Puerto Rico, then back in New Jersey and then in Sacramento.
“It wasn’t fun anymore after nine years, and they wanted me to move again,” he said. “We love this area and wanted to stay, but something we found lacking was (a real) deli and the type of food we serve here. A lot of places call themselves delis, but they’re really sandwich shops.
“So Raquel said, ‘Why don’t you leave the company and I can go back to work (in banking) and you can open a deli?’ So we did. All the dishes we serve here are from family recipes.”
I visited the deli with my lunch pal Graziella, whose family is originally from that narrow strip of the former Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) that borders Italy. She is accustomed to the cuisines on both sides of the border, and the hybrid one that joins those two international kitchens.
“Wow!” she said when we walked in to Dominick’s. “Doesn’t this look like a true old-fashioned deli? It’s got a mural and awnings.” Plus a crush of customers eating at the tables and lined up for made-to-order lunches to go.
After touring the store, she reported: “It’s meticulously clean. And all the imported items. … I’d come back here to buy the imported bread crumbs to make my meatballs. And the tomato sauce for sure.”
Inside Dominick’s are shelves full of imported foods, from wine and olive oil to pasta and tubes of crushed garlic – but take a look in the cold case at the imported and domestic Italian-style meats: prosciutto, mortadella, soppresata, capicollo, pepperoni, Genoa salami. Plus more-mainstream offerings: roast beef, corned beef, pastrami, ham, turkey, liverwurst.
Long lists of cold and hot “hero” sandwiches and grilled paninis dominate the menu ($5.95 to $14.95). They sport such names as the Goodfella (prosciutto cotto, hot capicollo, dry salami, provolone and hot cherry peppers) and the Neapolitan (mozzarella, prosciutto, roasted peppers and baby spinach dashed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil).
Here’s fair warning: The subs are huge. No, make that gigantic. We ordered a small (“half”) Italian combo (ham, salami, pepperoni and provolone) on fresh, chewy ciabatta bread, and when it arrived we were certain a mistake had been made, that it was the large (“whole”) version. “No,” assured Justin, who was working behind the counter, “this is the smallest sandwich we make.”
Note that the subs are dressed with shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, salt and pepper, Italian herbs, olive oil and vinegar and – for some odd reason – mayo.
Moving away from cold cuts are hot heroes stuffed with chicken, veal and eggplant Parmigiano, homemade meatballs, chicken cutlets and Italian sausage.
Then there’s the “From the Kitchen” portion of the menu, with Italian seafood salad (marinated calamari, baby octopus and mussels, $10.99 a pound), stuffed mushrooms ($12.99 a pound), garlic shrimp ($13.99 a pound) and fried calamari ($6.95 small, $10.95 large). Plus, marinated and herbed whole chickens are fired on a rotisserie in the kitchen ($9.75 each).
This is the kind of place where everything looks so good, you want to sample it all. We tasted arancini ($3.50), meatballs with marinara sauce ($7.49 a pound), lasagna ($8.99 a pound), sausage in sautéed onions and peppers ($7.49 a pound), baby back ribs ($10.99 a pound, available only Fridays-Sundays) and chocolate cannoli ($1 small, $2.89 large).
Arancini di riso are rice croquettes filled with a ground-meat mixture, then rolled in bread crumbs and fried. They’re a common snack food at kiosks throughout Sicily. Dominick’s arancini were splashed with marinara sauce. Tasty enough, but we thought they needed more filling, and that the filling longed for more intensity. But, as arancini are rarely seen around here, the dish deserves a try.
The handmade pork-and-beef meatballs were terrific, well-seasoned and with genuine texture – no filler there. Another handmade item is the Italian sausage – lean and chewy, rich with fennel and other herbs. Lasagna can be very good or very bad; this hand-built one was rich and creamy, crispy around the edges and cloudlike in the center.
I’m not sure why baby back ribs are on the menu of an Italian deli, but Graziella and I liked the novelty of such a brash act. These were pink and meaty and cooked over mesquite coals, but way too much spice rub made them taste like a salt lick. Good ribs, but back off on the rub.
As we watched, the chocolate cannoli shell was hand-filled with a tasty ricotta cheese paste. Beware: This delicious dessert is so light that its richness can sneak past you.
On the Saturday we visited, several daily items were also on offer: a magnificent standing rib roast, sliced to order; lush pork shanks cooked to melting tenderness; rigatoni in sauce; and fresh asparagus.
So, Dominick, how’s the new profession working out?
“The community has embraced us 110 percent,” he beamed. “I love talking with customers about the food. People originally from New York, New Jersey and Chicago come in and tell me, ‘I feel like I’m back home. We’ve been to so many places, but you’re the real deal.’
“I’m having a T-shirt made saying that – ‘The Real Deal.’ ”
Dominick’s Italian Market & Deli
WHERE: 8621 Auburn-Folsom Road, Granite Bay, (916) 786-3355. One way to get there: Take Highway 50 east to the Folsom Boulevard exit; make a left at the signal onto Folsom north (it turns into Auburn-Folsom Road); look on the right for Dominick’s in a shopping center; if you come to Douglas Boulevard, you’ve gone too far.
HOURS: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays