A Lake Barrington restaurant celebrates four generations of family tradition.
Domanico’s Steakhouse, 28686 W. Northwest Highway in Lake Barrington, opened last November, but to its loyal customers it’s far from a new dining experience.
The restaurant is part of a family tradition that started with Nick Domanico.
“I was in the butcher business since I was 14, and I learned the craft from my dad and grandfather who started out in the 1930s in Chicago,” says Domanico. He eventually opened his own place: Orchard Prime Meats at Bell’s Apple Orchard in Lake Zurich. “From there, I opened some other butcher shops and restaurants. I had transformed one of the butcher shops into a wine shop and restaurant called Tapas Calpe. I always wanted to keep evolving.”
But after so many years, Nick was ready to move on, and he sold his last business in 2020.
“When we got out of the last one, we had loyal customers and friends who didn’t want us to leave,” says Nick’s son, Jon, who also worked in those earlier restaurants.
So, Jon took the reins to become co-owner and day-to-day manager of a new venture. With his dad at his side, Jon teamed with local investors to purchase a former sports bar, and in six months, it had become Domanico’s Steakhouse.
“That’s four generations now,” says Nick, who serves as the kitchen supervisor and wine consultant. “This is our drive. It’s our life. This is how we carry on our family tradition.”
The Domanicos describe their new venture as an upscale, casual steakhouse with a European flair. Its scratch kitchen showcases soups, sauces, stocks and dressings, as well as homemade sausages, using a hand-cranked sausage stuffer. With their family background in butcher shops, they are well-versed in quality beef, offering USDA Prime steaks that are aged, hand cut and topped with a signature seasoning. The menu features filet mignon, rib-eye and New York strip but it also includes baby back ribs (smoked on-site), chicken piccata, rack of lamb, and a Prime cheeseburger that’s ground fresh on site and patty formed by hand.
But Domanico’s is more than just meat.
“One of my earlier restaurants featured tapas because our family would visit relatives and friends in Spain every summer,” Nick says. “While many menu items are from our family recipes, some originate from recipes we learned from our travels overseas, including our vegetarian offerings.”
The many tapas options include European charcuterie, medjool dates, spicy garlic shrimp, vegetables aioli, fresh ceviche and Italian meatballs.
“People always knew us for our prime beef, but our best-selling items are probably the tapas plates because that’s a sense of familiarity for our customers,” says Jon.
And Domanico’s has a vast variety of wines and cocktails.
“Most of our wines are European; many of the vineyards are places we have visited or have hosted at our wine dinners and tastings,” Nick says. “But we also have wine from California, South Africa and South America.”
To top it off, Domanico’s has a daily rotation of delicious desserts from Ambrosia Euro American Patisserie, a local bakery.
“I used to bake desserts at the previous place, but I have to focus on the other aspects of the restaurant,” Jon says. “So, I go to Ambrosia daily. They’ve been here for 35 years, and I always know their quality is unwavering. They have been a perfect complement to our restaurant.”
The interior at Domanico’s is a blending of new and vintage. From its high ceilings to the giant 100-year-old rug that was purchased from the Chicago Club, Domanico’s ambiance is a relaxing dining experience. European and soft jazz music are playing, with special live music on Thursdays. The outdoor patio adds more options.
“We’re really new here,” Nick says, “but we don’t feel new because a lot of our past customers are here. And we’re introducing ourselves to a lot of new people in the area every evening.”