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”. 

Drinks2 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

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35 replies on “Cuban Pete’s: Playing With Fire”

  1. Half the prize?, yeah right! I pay $5.95 for Mojitos (with Rum and a buzz) at Senoritas. But I would not mind paying $5.95 to watch a show!!

  2. I think Dominick needs to concentrate on his culinary skills rather than this entertainment gimmick. He made his name and fortune at Mexicali Rose for the good food, not gimmicks. Why does he feel he needs to be a PT Barnum in Montclair’s restaurant circuit?

  3. I thought Dominick’s food at Mexicali was just mediocre. What he did well there was cater to families. His staff knew how to deal with small children, and it was an inexpensive family restaurant. The food was not the attraction for people that know good Mexican food. The food there now is truly awful.
    Cuban Pete’s food is also just fair, in my opinion. I’ve eaten their three times and it was just forgettable. What Dominick is doing with the booze, I don’t know. I think he’s really flirting with disaster by flouting the liquor laws. The laws are not just silly blue laws designed to increase revenue from license sales. The Law views these statutes as quality of life protectors. Local communities decide how many licenses they want to allow, often in an attempt to control the atmosphere. He could easily wind up out of business if he’s not careful. Frankly, I wouldn’t see it as much of a loss.

  4. The liquor license law in Montclair is self-preserving because adding additional licenses will devalue the market value of the existing ones, and no license holder will accept taking that kind of loss. Unless there was some external (state/private) grant to payback the license holders the value they invested in them.

  5. We really love Cuban Pete’s we were thee the other night and ordered the drink and we really enjoyed the show-it was delicious and the best is we don’t have to worry about the alcohol-the town police in the area’s are out if full force to catch people driving over the limit now we can go to Pete’s have a great time enjoy great food and drink and not have to worry-we really feel Dominick has a winning set up there the food is great the atmosphere is outstanding he is obeying all the state laws the prices are good the service is excellent you feel like you stepped into another world when you are there,we spent many nights on the beautiful patio enjoying life-we congratulate him and wish him continued success.

  6. It is the best mojito I ever tasted, and I don’t really care that he burns off the alcohol. It tastes great and the price is right.
    p.s. The seafood mariscada is excellent. As good as top restaurants in NYC. For 15 or 16 bucks it’s an incredible value. If anyone else in town made it, it would cost twice that.

  7. do you know that when you ignite alcohol and “cook” it, only 15-50% of the alcohol evaporates, hes still serving boos, no matter how many clicks and whistles he adds to the show. it will catch up to him.

  8. Proof,
    You do not know what you are talking about. Alcohol will evaporate when it hits 120 degrees. If you ignite the rum in a frying pan over a range burner, you are easily exceeding 120 degrees. The flame you see in the air is the evaporated fumes igniting.

  9. I have been a frequent customer of Cuban Pete’s and think its one of the best if not the best rest, in town. Food is great service good and Dominick makes you feel very VIP. People have to get a life, this guy has found success, and everybody hates him for it. You try and work 15-18 hrs. a day 7 days a week, which he does. Dominck you go guy!!!!!!!

  10. 1. He’s a complete jackass.
    2. His sangria sucked. I suppose his faux-Mojitos do too.
    3. His food is overrated, mediocre at best, and he wouldn’t last three months in NYC or even Newark.

  11. Hey–don’t diss Newark; there are some great restaurants there! Try Casa Vasca, Adega Grill, or any number of Portuguese/Spanish places (that have been there for YEARS)!
    Why Baristanet lets these posts go up is beyond me. It’s blatantly obvious that these are put up by friends/family of Domenick (or by him)rather than by ‘random’ patrons. How/why the place stays open is also a wonder, but I just don’t see how this thread is helpful to anyone.

  12. JL,
    Apparently ,you have no idea what you are talking about. When alochol is Flamed it retains 75% of the original alcohol. Even when it is cooked for up to 2 hours there is still 5% of the original alcohol left. Unless you are drinking pure rubbing alcohol your theory doesn’t hold any water.
    You go ahead and have four or five of those “flamed drinks”, then when you get pulled over and fail a breath-a-lizer we can all laugh and point.
    Get your facts straight before you try to call someone out.

  13. Proof’s chart-
    That chart relates to wine added to baked dishes which is unrelated to flambe. In a flambe the alcohol is literally ignited and burns off in a little flash fire, typically brandy or rum is used. Flambe is being usd at Cuban Pete’s. Get a clue, prof.
    It sounds like some folks around town don’t like the owner. Ok, fine. But you’re wrong to post deceptive comments about the restaurant for such sophmoric personal reasons. The greeting is warm, place is fun, the service is prompt, the food is good and the drinks, while not alcoholic, are good. Bring your own if you don’t like theirs. Grow up.

  14. Robert L. Wolke ( is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. His latest book is “What Einstein Told His Cook 2, the Sequel: Further Adventures in Kitchen Science” (W.W. Norton, 2005). He can be reached
    Robert L. Wolke ( is professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. His latest book is “What Einstein Told His Cook 2, the Sequel: Further Adventures in Kitchen Science” (W.W. Norton, 2005). He can be reached
    Distilled beverages, containing 40 to 50 percent alcohol, have flash points of only about 80 degrees. It is therefore quite easy to ignite the warm vapors of a rum or brandy flambe with only a match, or even by simply tilting the pan over a flame. Being heavier than air, the alcohol vapor will pour over the edge of the pan and down into the flame, where it ignites. The flame then follows the vapor trail back up into the pan.
    A fact that surprises many people is that after the flame has died out, as much as 80 percent of the alcohol may be left in the liquid in the flambe pan. The flame burns only until the alcohol is reduced below its flash point and then goes out.

  15. People don’t know this about Dominick and all his others dark faces that he has, how he and his waiter manager treat people that work for him if i type down all the details and how they talk and do things to the employees this lines would be perfect for a psyco-movie… no exaggeration!, this guy is gonna get it down the road in his life.. All Montclair knows it already…

  16. Please, Isn’t the point of being an insider that you had to have worked or still work for Dominick. We all know it’s true.I worked for Dominick at Mexicali Rose and he treated us all like crap. He would not hire women ’cause he said “they are weak,and don’t work like men”, also he said that he could not “say the things that he would say to a man to a woman”. Anyone who worked for him will tell you..we were emotionaly and phycologically abused! in fact, we were so fed up with his crap that one saturday night we all agreed and walked out on him at the busiest time…only his brother stayed behind!!It was priceless and the highest point of my life as a protester…then I had to get a job!!! but it was worth it!!!!!!

  17. Proof, you certainly are no expert. I have spoken with both the Culinary Institute of America and the French Culinary Institute, and the “Master Chef’s” at both institutes say the same, rum will evaporate at 120 degrees. If you put the alcohol in a fry pan and ignite it, there is absolutely no alcohol remaining. If Dominic goes to trial, he will have many experts who will state this.

  18. hey, JLL180, it’s that kind of shooting-from-the-hip advice that seems to have gotten Mr. Restaino in trouble with ABC. Hearsay from the Culinary Institute, etc., might be reassuring, but the proof (so to speak) will be in the actual testing done by the enforcers, no?

  19. Anyone else see Domenick get arrested the other day, guess there really was alcohol in there after all. Smart business move.

  20. Has anyone noticed that the trial for Dominick has been postponed. I hear that charges will be dropped.

  21. dominick Ithink you are great I am a businnes owner in town I am glad you are alwais busy so let ewerybody talck out of their a… what do you care not knowingly they are giving you great publicity who care at what degree the alcool evaporates your food and drinks are great and foor the price people pay thy will alwais support you most people badmouthing you have nothing to do their life is miserable by talking bad about you gives them somthing to do so live happy and make alot of money that what this country is all about go dominik we love you ciao

  22. Wow!!.. an advice for you “strunz”: why don’t you use your time to improve your writting skills???..

  23. Hey Ex-waiter, instead of constantly complaining about Dominick and other peoples writing skills, why dont you go find a job. Obviously you have way too much time on your hands.

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