If you are not paying attention to where you are going, you could miss the small red awning that graces the entrance to this historic italian restaurant. For its famous clients such as Frank Sinatra, who had his own booth, to icons that witnessed history happen before their eyes, like Nancy Reagan, to the scores of loyal regulars who call this home, La Dolce Vita delivers traditional italian food in a nice comfortable atmosphere.
And even when I was paying attention, I still missed the awning. It sits on the corner of S Santa Monica Blvd and Wilshire. So I had to turn around for another go. Once I did walk in, I was promptly greeted by its highly regarded Matre D’ Ruben with a straight eye line to the bar. This place is not large by any stretch, but it is intimate, casual, and classy at the same time. And I still felt a little underdressed.
One thing I like about this job is when I don’t even have to look at the menu, because I know that what I am recommended it always good.
So lets start with the Antipasto. Full disclosure: my mother is from sicily and my father’s grandparents as well, so my traditional antipasto has always been a plate of several thinly sliced meats. Rarely was there cheese (goat and parmesan), peppers, veggies (tomatoes, broccoli, and red peppers), and anchovies, which graced the plate that was before me. Throw in some thick cut salami and mortadella, this was a taste treat. I am not really a fan of anchovies, but when you get a bite of a slice of anchovy, pepper, and goat cheese on your fork, that is heaven. There was a freshness about the plate that provided a clean taste that lingered on the palate just long enough to enjoy, but didn’t roll over to the entree. I paired this with a Simi Valley chardonnay.
As I waited for the main dish, I took a glimpse of where I was and just thought of Ol’ Blue Eyes sitting behind me with his back to the wall as to see the entire restaurant, and checking out the … and then the Osso Buco showed up. If you have never had Osso Buco, this may ruin you for every other one that comes along. Not only did it look delicious, sitting on top of a bed of risotto and flanked with asparagus, but the taste was amazing. It was so tender, picture cutting through hot butter with a hot knife.. it fell apart in anticipation of the fork digging into it. And the flavor was amazing, but it wasn’t so much with the meat itself. The money is in the risotto that soaks up the reduction that gives that intense flavor to the entire dish. (Sidebar to LDV > Are you open right now? Im hungry writing about this.) Sorry, anyway.. The veggies get a little splash of lemon that finds its way to the sauce that adds a little bit of unexpected kick that kicks of the flavor even more. I would suggest pairing this with a nice Cabernet, and yes, I love cab, so Im a little bias :). Warning, it will fill you up, so in order to preserve my appetite for dessert, I boxed up the remaining portion of my dish and ordered their home made cheesecake.
A hazard of the job is that I have to wait until I get the pictures done before I could eat anything, and I really had to control myself on this one. So I set up at the bar so they could turn the table and I was presented with this perfectly sliced cheesecake which I thought had a creme brûlée topping on it, but it was just the browning from baking. When you dig into this pie, you realize it’s no lightweight, it bears the full force of the cream cheese, so I was a little skeptical of the taste, but I was wrong again.. I don’t think I have ever had such a hefty piece of cheesecake (which actually wasn’t very dense) with such a light flavor . It was just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth craving.
After 40 years, this restaurant knows what they are doing and how to please their clientele.
The food was stellar, the staff was more than courteous, the atmosphere was amazing. You can hear stories about places, how they are historic, famous people frequent them, etc etc, but as I was sipping my port about to leave, Ruben and a man dressed in a black suit walked in escorting an older woman to hear seat. When I realized it was Nancy Reagan it all seemed to come together. If she has been a regular for many many years, then this place has to be special.
La Dolce Vita made me feel like my friend had brought me home for dinner at his italian mother’s home. I was treated like family, they made sure I was satisfied, and had enough to eat :).
Note: Since I went in and took professional photos of the establishment, LDV discounted my bill on their end.