service never stops
Valerie DeSalvatore, general manager
Valerie DeSalvatore is the General Manager of BRG Hospitality’s award-winning Italian restaurant, Domenica. A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Valerie’s involvement in the hospitality industry began at age 16 at a local restaurant, where she developed a strong work ethic that shaped her managerial style today.
Enamored with the fast pace of the restaurant world, Valerie moved to New Orleans in 2009 and joined the opening team at Domenica as a server. She quickly fell in love with Italian wine, spirits, food, and culture. In 2013, she moved to BRG Hospitality’s August to expand her wine and spirits expertise and returned to Domenica three years later to continue the next phase of her career as a manager.
Named General Manager of Domenica in August 2018, Valerie is proud to channel her passion for hospitality into creating the best environments for both her staff and guests alike. Living by the motto “service never stops,” Valerie welcomes guests at Domenica as she would in her own home – with warmth, care, and extreme attention to detail.
Rita Bernhardt, chef de cuisine
She began her culinary journey in the Big Easy in the kitchen of Domenica, where she served as a Line Cook for a year and a half. Although Rita found a home at Domenica, she was eager to explore additional opportunities in the city and gain experience with different styles of cuisine. Rita moved to New Orleans hotspot and James Beard Award-nominated wine bar Bacchanal before making her way to BRG Hospitality’s celebrated fine dining flagship, August, in 2013.
In May 2014, Rita and her husband founded a catering service and supper club called The PDR. Pushing herself to further her recipe development and fine-tune the art of cooking for private events, The PDR became an instant success under Rita’s leadership. All the while, Rita continued to work in restaurants, and in 2017 joined the Dick & Jenny’s team as Chef and Consultant.
Heeding the call to return to her first New Orleans base, Rita accepted the position of Chef de Cuisine at Domenica in April 2018. Thrilled to re-join the Domenica team, as she loves the simple, straight-forward aspect of Italian food and considers it “soul food.” Rita’s energies are focused on developing menu items that focus on Northern Italian fare while utilizing local, Southern ingredients.
Mike Wilson, executive chef
Mike Wilson graduated with honors from Montana State University with a degree in Biology in 2010. After graduation, he worked as a field biologist for a few years, but academia became unappealing and he missed the camaraderie of a professional kitchen. Deciding to go back to the kitchen and work as a cook, his culinary journey led him back to his hometown of New Orleans and ultimately to Domenica. Mike had trained in a variety of restaurants between the time that he took his first job in a kitchen at the age of 15, and when he walked into Domenica to ask about a job at 30. He worked through the ranks at Domenica, and eventually was named Executive Chef at PIZZA domenica, Domenica’s casual spin-off. He later became the Chef de Cuisine at Shaya, which opened in early 2015, helping the restaurant earn many prestigious awards and recognitions. In the beginning of 2016, Mike returned to Domenica as Chef de Cuisine, and now leads the kitchen as Executive Chef where he returned to his New Orleans cooking career years ago.