Dominic's on the Hill and Dominic's Trattoria in Clayton are more than places to enjoy world-class Italian fare; they are testaments to the vision, passion, and family of Giovanni Dominic Galati - or Dominic, as he is affectionately known.
Lauded as one of the country's top Italian restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler, Dominic's on the Hill is the result of over 50 years of love and dedication poured into every dish, every interaction, and every detail. The distinguished accolades, the authentic ambiance, and the exceptional experience transcend culinary fame. When asked about his proudest accomplishment over the many decades, a gentle smile graces Dominic's face, and his response is as humble as it is profound; "I make a lot of people happy. That is what I enjoy."
Dominic's story begins with an opportunity to come to a new country. Dominic was living in Rome with his older brother when his uncle, who lived on the Hill in St. Louis asked Dominic to come to America. "My uncle tragically lost his two sons," explained Dominic. "So, he asked my dad to send one of my brothers to America. My brother Pino was all set to go, but then he fell in love and said, 'No. I'm not going. Finito.' So, my uncle asked me to come." Dominic is the youngest child in his family.
His uncle's request resulted in two life-changing conversations for Dominic. The first conversation was between Dominic and Father Sal Polizzi (now known as Monsignor Polizzi). Father Polizzi often traveled from St. Louis to Rome and was Dominic's second cousin. "Father Polizzi would say, 'Your uncle wants you to come to St. Louis. Why don't you come? If you don't like it, you can go back to Italy.'" Soon after that conversation, Dominic received a ticket to America. The second and most impactful conversation was between Dominic and his mother. "I went to see my mother, and she told me, '"Andare. Perché non c'è niente per te in questo paese, in questa città. Which means, 'Go. Because there is nothing for you in this country, this town.' My mom was very special; I'll never forget what she told me. That is my memory of leaving Italy."
While the success of Dominic's on the Hill is undeniably anchored in an exceptional culinary experience, it also embodies Dominic's unconditional love and gratitude for family. "My wife Jackie and my in-laws were all involved in the restaurant from the beginning," Dominic shared. "It was a family affair." And it continues to be.
Today, his wife Jackie, and his daughter, Maria, run Dominic's Trattoria in Clayton, while 79-year-old Dominic continues to create exceptional memories for guests at Dominic's on the Hill. His oldest daughter, Gina, balances helping her father at the restaurant while also having a career as the General Director of Winter Opera St. Louis. Winter Opera opens its 17th season on November 17th at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center.
Gina, an accomplished opera singer, and her sister Maria, the General Manager of Dominic's Trattoria, epitomize the family's commitment to their culinary heritage. "We all put our hearts into this work," said Gina. "It's our livelihood. As family-run restaurants, we are able to endure quite a bit because of what we've endured so far."
Dominic's story is the quintessential American dream driven by dedication, fortified by a loving family, rooted in tradition while embracing a new future. The restaurants are more than places to dine; they embody the celebration of family and friends and the joy of shared moments around a table.
"God bless America. This country is the greatest. It gave me an opportunity," Dominic said softly. "The best decision I ever made was marrying my wife. I have been very blessed. I want to be remembered as a simple person who works hard, has passion, and a good family."