There’s a lot at San Domenico to attract the eye, like the Italian aristocrats or the celebrities periodically perched at table nine (Johnny Depp and Keith Richards ate there the other night). But the most striking thing in the restaurant remains the immense antique Berkel proscuitto slicer, a gift from Friuli to owner Tony May after September 11. “It’s the Ferrari of slicing machines,” May says. “It’s a simple machine, but it’s a jewel. It was a great gift.” Built in 1941 and powered by hand, it has a razor-sharp slicing edge that turns with the measured pace of a roulette wheel on its final spins.
“An electric one spins too fast, gets hot,” May says. “It cooks the ham. This one is set on the thinnest setting and gives us perfect cool San Danielle proscuitto. And it’s very beautiful.” We couldn’t agree more. The crank underneath your hand seems to offer hardly any resistance at all, but behind it immense, quiet gears transfer the slightest effort into a laserlike cutting surface. And with or without proscuitto, it’s one of the coolest-looking machines this side of a Jack Kirby–era Fantastic Four comic. But it’s no museum piece. San Domenico uses it all night every night, and outside of needing a monthly sharpening, it’s never required any maintenance at all.