Dominick Restaino is burning…alcohol, again. The new confligration at Cuban Pete’s is a flambe bar, where Restaino now prepares his new mojito cocktails, served with REAL rum, which he claims are selling like wildfire. The Teflon Dom, who managed to escape nearly unscathed after a confrontation with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) for selling sangria without a liquor license, has found another way to market cocktails “within the limits of the law”.
What’s his trick? We went to take a look (and a taste) this week, and watched Dominick create his fiery mojitos. Pouring white rum (Ron Presidente) into a sauce pan, Restaino places the pan over a portable stove and lights a match. Two foot high flames erupt – it’s very Vegas to watch — but the flames are really “most of the alcohol burning off.” The liquid then goes straight into the tall glass with the icy minted mojito mix. Restaino sells the concoctions for $5.95 a glass — “half of what bars normally charge,” he says. “I can charge less, because I don’t have to pay off a liquor license.”
“I’ve talked to the guys in Trenton” he tells us. “The attorney general, he’s okay with this”. And the ABC? “They have no problem,” but warned him to make sure all the alcohol is burned off.
Is Cuban Pete’s mojito alcohol free? “Probably, I think so,” Restaino says, “but I’m sort of playing Russian roulette. Sure, the ABC will probably be down here again.” He almost sounds like he wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t show up. “We’re going to start something big in New Jersey, squash those liquor licenses.” (We’ll add that one to our collection of “Dominickisms.”) As for the mojito we sampled? Tasty, but not even the faintest buzz. The next drink Dom will tackle? Brazil’s Capirihna. Still, will folks pay close to $6 for flaming mocktails?
But more importantly — how’s the food? After experiencing some serious growing pains and weeding out 12 chefs over the past year, Dominick and his family have taken back control of the cuisine. Pyrotechnics aside, the naked paella and marinated skirt steak were more than enough reason to come back. — Annette Batson