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February  26

Who Needs Sangria?

In case you haven't heard, the owner of Cuban Pete's was arrested last week for serving alcohol in his sangrias. An old Baristanet friend, who moved out of town last year, decided to visit the restaurant Friday night and filed this, ahem, interesting report. Don't skip the jump. The best part of the story is about four paragraphs down.


We made the 40 minute trip from Wayne to Montclair tonight to take some friends to Cuban Pete's. One of them is from Puerto Rico and wanted to try the cod appetizer and was looking forward to a cup of good, strong Cuban coffee to end the meal. I had been there before and had a great time, especially after drinking the "non-alcoholic" sangria. I had read about the owner's arrest and was expecting maybe a 45 minute wait, but thought it was worth it.

So, we arrived at the restaurant at 7:15 and were told it would be a 45 minute wait. After having some tea and coffeee at Cafe Eclectic, we headed back over only to wait some more - we were seated at 8:30 and at a table with 3 chairs. We stood waiting for the 4th chair for about 3 awkward minutes until finally we got one.

The place was packed and we were prepared thinking they might be out of a few things and service may be slow. Our waiter came over and we said "Hi, how are you?" His response : a deadpan "Tired." OK. We placed our order quickly and clearly but received sad news - no cod fritters for our friend, no limonada sangria and the dish my other friend order was gone too. We made the best of it and carried on.

Our appetizers came quickly and were delicious.  As we nibbled away, we were treated to some live entertainment too.  First, an angry customer who must have been waiting a very long time got in a loud argument with one of the staff and Dominick.  He soon left, red-faced.  Then, Montclair's own Dick Grabowsky showed up wearing a neon orange outift with a shirt that said "Free Dominick".  He waltzed around with sangria pitchers for a few minutes.  Our friends were impressed with all this excitement.

Then, after finishing our meal, which was delayed by about 5 minutes due to missing cutlery, we were looking forward to that coffee.  As we started to order the coffee, our waiter said, "We are not serving coffee at this time."  HUH?  I was utterly confused, so I said "Do you mean you're not serving it at this minute but will a little later?" No, not serving it at all he said - too busy for coffee.  Too busy for coffee?  What kind of restaurant doesn't serve coffee?

What could we do?  We ordered some dessert and laughed it off, until we spied some younger patrons sipping something from what looked suspiciously like coffee mugs.  But by then we had already asked for the check and had had enough of Cuban Pete's.  An interesting night out in Montclair, to say the least. 

February 26, 2006 in A Friend Writes | Permalink


Wow - I guess after months in business things haven't really changed too much. They're constantly out of items on the menu! You can't really go there hoping for your favorite item, b/c you likely won't get it!

"Free Dominick"?? The guy was illegally selling alcohol! And he had been warned before too! He knew the law and broke it! (And, once a friend was in there right after the first ordeal and he was talking about how he was going to start offering some traditional cuban rum thing!) If he was trying to pass the stuff off as non-alcoholic, who knows how many kids may have had some b/c their parents innocently thought they were drinking virgin sangria!

Posted by: Butch | Feb 26, 2006 10:19:15 AM

Interesting, but it doesn't surprise me. I like Dominick and have enjoyed eating at both Cuban Petes and Mexicali Rose (back when he ran it). But we had a similar experience at Mexicali Rose. It was early on a weekend evening (6ish), and very busy, and we were there with our two kids. We were still finishing our dinner and the kids were done and wanted ice cream. We ordered the ice cream, and were told they were not serving dessert at that point in the night because it was too busy. Very annoying and it kept us from returning for about a year.

Posted by: tm07042 | Feb 26, 2006 10:19:44 AM

I'd like to follow up on butch's comment.

Not just kids might have had "non- alcoholic" sangria. Most likely, pregnant women had the sangria, in the belief it was OK.

This whole thing is irritating on so many levels.

Posted by: Paul from OB | Feb 26, 2006 11:03:17 AM

And not just kids and pregnant women!

A recovering alcoholic could be "set off" by drinking a glass or two of that!

VERY irresponsible and DANGEROUS!

Posted by: latebloomer | Feb 26, 2006 11:11:43 AM

"Then, Montclair's own Dick Grabowsky showed up wearing a neon orange outift with a shirt that said "Free Dominick". He waltzed around with sangria pitchers for a few minutes."

I would have gladly paid $$$ to see this.

Posted by: Miss Martta (8T) | Feb 26, 2006 11:52:26 AM

Were Dick's sangria pitchers full, empty, or somewhere in between?

Posted by: crank | Feb 26, 2006 11:58:00 AM

It's mind numbing to think of how many lives he could have ruined. Pregnant women, anyone on the wagon or in revcovery. He needs to go to jail. Not just fines, he needs to go to jail. On top of that he is stealing from other restaurants who have taken the time to properly buy a license.

Posted by: BigBob | Feb 26, 2006 11:59:30 AM

Not to mention those pregnant recovering alcoholic children!

Posted by: latebloomer | Feb 26, 2006 12:02:09 PM

Hold on here. I agree, if he was giving alcoholic drinks labled as "non-alcoholic" to unsuspecting minors, pregnant women, or recovering alcoholics, this is a terrible thing. But there has been no accusation of this, or claims that this happened from any patrons.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2006 1:16:44 PM

I do happen to know a group of teenagers who were served sangria. I thought it quite strange. They weren't carded. A week later the girl's mother and I were there for dinner and my impression from drinking the sangria was that it was alcoholic.

Posted by: donna | Feb 26, 2006 1:40:06 PM

Joe, the quoted article on the other thread says inspectors from the alcohol commission were served the alcoholic sangria on four visits, and removed samples to confirm.

I'll wait to see what the complaint / indictment asserts and what evidence they present.

Posted by: Paul from OB | Feb 26, 2006 3:11:03 PM

I went to Cuban Pete's about a month ago and had a nice(not anything to rave about)meal and sangrias. We were not asked if we wanted them with or without alcohol when we ordered. We were a table of 4; two of us are 22 , one is 21 and one 19 years old. there was definately alcohol in the sangrias, I don't know what kind of alcohol, but we were all very tipsy when we left. We even walked around in the cold for about 45mins before we drove home to sober up a little. The point is, we all assumed they had a liquor license, they advertise sangrias like it's their main attraction. I just don't understand how they thought nobody would notice?

Posted by: notfrommontclair | Feb 26, 2006 3:41:20 PM

Donna's comment was accurate. My 17-year-old daughter, along with five of her friends, were served sangria when they went to dinner there several weeks ago. They were not carded and while they are quite mature, no one would confuse them for 21-year-olds. I'm now ashamed that I didn't alert the town or the county; I should have. Like many others, I am fond of Dominick and wish him well but in addition to those pregnant women and recovering addicts he may be jeopardizing, he's jeopardizing young lives as well as others by serving alcoholic beverages to youngsters who are likely to get behind the wheel of a car after their dinner, not knowing they've been drinking.

Posted by: MontclairMom | Feb 26, 2006 3:47:28 PM

Serving minors? If true, he should get the book thrown at him.

MontclairMom, yes please next time report something like this out of a sense of community responsibility if nothing else.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Feb 26, 2006 3:56:13 PM

I really don't understand how anyone can expect sangria not to have alcohol in it, as someone noted on the other thread. What the heck do you think you're going to get when you order sangria?

This is quite apart from the issue of serving alcohol to minors which, if true, is reprehensible.

Posted by: crank | Feb 26, 2006 4:11:58 PM

For alcohol without a license and for serving minors, by all means throw the book at him. He deserves it.

But I think we can stop worrying about the duped pregnant women and recovering alcoholics. I mean, who orders sangria and doesn't assume there is alcohol in it? If you know of any, there's a bridge in Brooklyn that I'd like to sell em.

Posted by: Lisa | Feb 26, 2006 4:14:09 PM

Tinga does not have a liquor license and sells non-alcoholic "Sangria".

If I were at a restaurant and they didn't have a wine list, or beer, or a bar I would assume it was a restaurant without alcohol.

I think a pregnant woman or alcoholic person would certainly ask if the Sangria had wine in it, *most* of the time.

I don't see how there is *any* mitigating circumstance which excuses this in the slightest.

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Feb 26, 2006 4:30:29 PM

Ok I'll grant you that sangria is suppose to have some wine in it, however if they can't find the "time" to make you a cup of coffee- then I doubt they'd have the time to distinguish between regular and decaf when they do have coffee (which for some isn't such a good thing)--or boozeless if so ordered---

I am finding it hard to believe that people are waiting 45 minutes for a place that behaves this way---

"Dominick" sounds like an ass but the people who are waiting 45 minutes, not knowing if they'll have what they'll expect to eat, horrible service, not know if they'll have coffee sounds pretty unbelievable. And then paying a bill for it---your outta your minds.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 26, 2006 4:32:05 PM

I am also doubting that the servers have the time to check ID"S as well.

Posted by: cstarling | Feb 26, 2006 4:33:34 PM

Yes Lisa you are 100% right. I don't really think anyone bought one thinking there was no alcohol in it, but you never know. There is no such thing as a virgin sangria! You wouldn't call it SANGRIA then! We assumed it had alcohol when we ordered, and since they weren't carding, why not! Three out of our group of four could legally drink anyway but serving all of us was a bonus. I'm pretty sure there was more than wine in there too, unless New Jersey grows some really strong wines.

Posted by: notfrommontclair | Feb 26, 2006 4:34:07 PM

Maybe it's the "car wreck syndrome". There is so much talk about the poor service, attitude by the employees and arrogance to the law from the owner that we all have to go and see for ourselves? It's like a bad car wreck, you have to look but you don't necessarily want to see what's there...

Posted by: notfrommontclair | Feb 26, 2006 4:39:37 PM

Mexicali Rose,when Dominick owned it, had virgin Margaritas! I would assume that a restaurant without beer, wine or liquor on the menu was serving virgin sangria.

Posted by: latebloomer | Feb 26, 2006 4:57:05 PM

Ack! Maybe I'll just stick to Cuban restaurants in Atlantic City or NYC where I know if I order a mojito or sangria, I'm getting the real thing! Going out to dinner should be a pleasant experience, no? That being said, I shouldn't have to deal with the aggravation of not being able to order an adult beverage with my meal when I go out. BYOB was fun when I was in college but now it's just a hassle.

Posted by: Miss Martta (8T) | Feb 26, 2006 5:16:39 PM

Wow. I am so confused. When my wife and I went, we enjoyed some sangria and assumed that it contained wine. There was no indication of "virgin" on the menu. I was under the impression that his license allowed limited sale of wine.

Posted by: Tye | Feb 26, 2006 5:53:56 PM

You can go to lots of restaurants that dont have liquor licenses and order things like "strawberry daquiri's", etc. In Montclair, it seems believable that someone would think there was no alcohol - after all, hardly anywhere serves alcohol!

But the burden is upon the OWNER to the follow the laws!

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