It's the sweet life at Dolce Vita
Reviewed by Rachel Feit, Fri., Nov. 4, 2011
Mon.-Fri., 6:30am-12mid; Sat.-Sun., 7:30am-12mid
Dolce Vita4222 Duval St., 323-2686
Monday-Friday, 6:30am-12mid; Saturday-Sunday, 8am-12mid
It was one of those exquisite fall days when we sat eating lunch and sipping noontime coffee on the busy patio at Dolce Vita, one of Hyde Park's ever-popular coffee and snack shops. At the table to the right of us, a family with adult children was sampling sorberitas (sorbet and liquor blended up smoothie-style) and fresh fruit salad. To our left, university students discussed politics behind their laptops and bottomless cups of fresh-brewed coffee. Inside the cafe, a couple of suits were talking about Austin real estate over paninis. My 2-year-old daughter was busy devouring her homemade espresso gelato and moving chairs around the patio to accommodate her dolls' nap-time needs. Nobody seemed to mind that she had blocked up the patio entrance with the dolls, and I wasn't in any particular hurry to leave the pleasant, almost lazy warmth of the moment.
Dolce Vita is like that – a cozy, welcoming cafe with a neighborhood atmosphere that is perfectly suited to its diverse clientele. For nearly 20 years, Dolce Vita has had a reputation for serving excellent coffee drinks, cordials, and homemade gelatos and sorbets in esoteric flavors such as lemon-rosemary, tamarind, and butternut squash. However, since taking it over five years ago, co-owners Pascal Nicolas and Alex Maradiaga have expanded its menu to include a tempting selection of cocktails, fresh sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items.
Concepts are simple but well-executed. Think grilled paninis with sliced chicken, roasted peppers, and melted provolone oozing from the sides ($6.95) or fresh mozzarella with pesto, tomatoes, and balsamic mayonnaise ($6.95). I was delighted with my sandwich of smoked salmon, herbed ricotta, red onion, and lettuce served on crusty French bread ($6.95). Salads feature well-chosen combinations such as spinach with dried cherries, pecans, and Parmesan ($6.50) or baby greens with avocados and walnuts dressed with herby vinaigrette ($6.95). A rotating selection of cheeses from Antonelli's Cheese Shop next door ensures that there's always something new to try on the menu.
More than ever, Dolce Vita has that winning combination of atmosphere, sips, sweets, and noshes that makes it appealing almost any time of day.