A garlicky salad dressing fondly remembered throughout Dayton was one of the most requested recipes in my weekly Dayton Food & Dining newsletter.
After a little bit of research in the Dayton Daily News archives, I found out the signature salad dressing at Dominic’s, which first opened on South Main Street in 1957, was made from a secret family recipe.
The late Dayton Daily News columnist Dale Huffman wrote in an Oct. 2000 issue that the dressing was such a hit with comedian Bill Cosby that he mentioned it to Johnny Carson on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.”
Another distinct memory was shared in the Lifestyle section of a July 1994 issue that said a 1966 radio interview with then-Mayor Dave Hall was stopped when the mayor asked the interviewer mid-question, “Man, where’d you have lunch - Dominic’s?”
Dayton-area residents have requested the recipe since at least 1976.
Responding to a request, the late Dayton Daily News reporter Sally Batz wrote, “The manager of Dominic’s told me the owner would not want to divulge the recipe for their ‘house’ (garlic) salad dressing.”
Batz offered a recipe for a garlic dressing she had hoped readers would find similar:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 clove garlic (halved)
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 4 tbsp. wine vinegar
Instructions: Mix the mustard, salt and garlic thoroughly. Add vinegar, stir. Add oil, then stir vigorously until all ingredients are well blended and keep jar in refrigerator.
In a 1984 Ask and Answer section, Bonnie Davis of Dayton shared the ingredients for her Dominic’s salad recipe, which included lettuce, sugar, accent, salad vinegar, olive oil and fresh pressed garlic. She said the recipe was given to her by a waitress at the restaurant, but she did not provide any amounts.
When I asked readers if they had the recipe for the salad dressing, Alicia Risko responded:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Small jar pimentos, drained
- 3 to 5 garlic coves, chopped
Directions: Break lettuce into big bowl. Mix together ingredients in another bowl. Pour mixed ingredients over lettuce and let it stand for one hour.
Risko said the recipe was given to her by a friend who knew someone that worked there.
“It’s delicious, especially for those of us who love garlic,” she said.
In addition, Marsha Lucas shared a very similar recipe. She said she uses a “heavy” 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and five to six garlic cloves, grated. She offered a few additional tips including using extra virgin olive oil and a 2-ounce jar of pimentos, drained.
“It is really close, if not identical, to the original,” Lucas said.
After 50 years in business, Dominic’s closed its doors in 2007. Anne Mantia, the owner at the time, said she sold the property to Miami Valley Hospital.
“I had to give it up, and it breaks my heart,” Mantia previously said. “But I love this business and we have every intention of opening a new Dominic’s one day in the future. We will be back.”
Two years later, Christie Mantia, granddaughter of founder Dominic Mantia, announced plans to join Reece Powers III, nephew of the founder and owner of the former Duke’s Golden Ox, to open a new restaurant in West Carrollton.
Shortly after those plans were announced, Anne Mantia filed a trademark-infringement and breach-of-contract lawsuit against Christie, Powers, and Harry Lee, former Dominic’s chef. Four years later, the lawsuit ended.
The Red Carpet Tavern, located at 3301 Wayne Avenue in Dayton’s Belmont neighborhood, offers the garlic salad dressing, according to Chef DD Pearson in a Dec. 2022 interview.
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