It’s possible to be a regular at Café Domenico’s without ever having been.
Based in Leith, up Sandport Street, a little path up from Commercial Street as you head towards Coburg House, Café Domenico’s presents a modest red front.
During the pre-COVID times, there was often a queue out the door during lunch hour. I’d get there early and ask for the fast pasta, which would be waiting in a heated dish by the door and served in generous quantities. Others would be there for the sandwiches from the counter.
It’s popular, rightly so, despite all the myriad of alternatives because Domenico’s is delicious, great value and switched on enough to service legions of office workers quickly.
I did that for years, very happily and absolutely recommended it.
But that’s not the review of Cafe Domenico’s I’m writing today, and this review is about the dine-in experiences I’ve had.
Café Domenico’s the restaurant
There are tables behind the food counter that looks after those office workers, not many, and it is cosy but not cramped. It’s a date night Italian restaurant vibe.
I’d forgotten how good this part of Domenico’s was, and I’m pleased I went back. It was the presence of a tiny table sitting outside, with two seats in the glow of a night light, that reminded me Domenico’s is more than takeaway.
So, I booked online, turned up on time and had a great night there again, as I used to enjoy doing now and then all those years ago.
You shouldn’t take my word, though. Check out the restaurant/cafe yourself.
The Italian menu is supplemented with a specials board. My recommendation is very much to give those specials due consideration. On my most recent visit, just after Burns Night, I had haggis bonbons from the specials to start, chicken Nduja from the a la carte for my main and banoffee pie again from the specials to finish.
Healthy? Who cares. Delicious? Yes!
I was having two days of decadence. I was eating out almost every meal. I ate at restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs. Yep! Utter self-indulgence. Café Domenico’s was my highlight.
The banoffee was a special treat, the bonbons delicious, but the chicken was heart-lifting greatness.
It costs more to eat in and be treated to table service and a thoughtful menu than to grab the fast pasta. I wouldn’t call it the expense, though, and it’s reasonably priced and worth every penny.
Café Domenico’s atmosphere and service
The food is excellent, but there’s something personal about the service that contributes significantly to the Domenico’s experience as well. It needs to be mentioned.
Years ago, when I was a frequent visitor to the restaurant area, I remember it was often busy, but the service was just as top-notch. It’s quick, but not fast pasta quick, professional but not judgemental. Turn up in your jeans. Turn up in a tie. Domenico’s is right for you.
On my most recent trip, with COVID still a concern, there was one empty table while I was there. But only one. One waiter was attending the tables but supported by the front of house team, and he was brilliant. I had no wait; plates arrived and vanished when they needed to.
More importantly than the speed I like, the service was friendly. I was alone, so I welcomed a bit of banter, even though masks, but too much gets awkward. I don’t have the social skills to tell you where that line is; I just know when it’s crossed. On the other hand, Domenico’s know exactly how much interaction is best. I left the cafe’s dining area feeling appropriately socialised, and it was a great way to end my two days of decadence.
Simply put, I think Café Domenico’s is due a visit. Have you even eaten out Edinburgh if you’ve got eaten here?