Discovering How Damian's Cucina Italiana Has Made It to the 30-Year Mark
There are so many factors that contribute to a restaurant's success: quality of food, enjoyable ambience, attentive service, convenient location, decent drink selection -- the list could go on and on. And while a solid combination of these qualities can make any restaurant successful for a year, or two or three, you have to be really good at all of the above plus cultivate a loyal fan base and remain relevant, and consistent -- yet interesting -- to your audience to hit the five-year, ten-year and 15-plus-year mark.
Photos by Carla Soriano The interior of Damian's Cucina Italiana in midtown.
I contemplated this upon receiving a press release about Damian's Cucina Italiana (located in Midtown) celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. I thought to myself: Thirty years is a long time -- especially in restaurant years, in which 30 years is, like, 125 human years. Accompanying the press release was an invitation to a media dinner highlighting Damian's anniversary specials. I accepted the invite, as I knew I had to go and find the secret to its longer-than-a-quarter-century success.
When I walked into Damian's, I was met with a white-linen-clad restaurant enveloped in soft yellow light. Large murals of the Italian countryside adorn the walls, and ceiling arches frame the whole scene. It was formal without being stuffy, classic in style without feeling outdated. I was greeted quickly by the attentive manager, who led me to a table of fellow bloggers.
Sweet roasted almonds and a light creamy balsamic dressing make this good salad a great one.
We started the night with a mini-Cosmopolitan, which tasted good and felt strong but was a little too sweet for my taste. I abandoned my drink in favor of bite-size crostini topped with a dab of rémoulade and a small boiled shrimp -- a great reminder that good things often come in tiny packages.
Soon enough came the first course: a refreshing "Mona Lisa" salad, which combined different lettuces with tomatoes, feta, small bunches of sweet roasted almonds, and a light, creamy balsamic dressing that added a hint of sweetness to the mix. The latter two items made the good salad a great salad. I accompanied my greens with two breads -- one, a delicious fluffy, buttery and herb-filled focaccia, the other an underwhelming sourdough. Although the sourdough wasn't my favorite, I have to extend credit to the Italian restaurant for baking its own breads in-house at its upstairs bakery.