Dolce Italia's new spot on Skelton Road is indicative of the brand maturing. Gone are the plastic tables and bright green decor of their old premises, the new spot is a cosy space with lots of seating, lots of staff, and even a pizza oven.
Drinks & Dining
We decided to get one of our old Dolce favourites, the Shrimp Fettuccine (Rs. 1150). The waiter suggested red sauce, so we went with that. Slightly al dente, with oodles of fragrant and herby tomato-based sauce, the pasta was great, and surprisingly filling.
They've got a whole new pizza menu now, so we decided to check out a couple of their toppings. We opted for half Quattro Formaggio (Rs. 1400) and half Pollo Spezie (Rs. 1300) upon the waiter's recommendation. Altogether, the pizza came to Rs. 1350. The 4 cheese was quite good, with a selection of imported cheeses including blue cheese gracing the light and thin base.
The spicy chicken topping was quite disappointing, as it basically tasted like curry and was so wet it soaked through the base giving it a roti-like consistency. Italian chicken curry and roti is not something you want to experience.
The management noticed our pizza and told us the spicy chicken was a poor choice (we kind of wish they'd told the waiter this first!), and insisted on sending out a couple more pizzas for us to taste. They wouldn't charge us for these (clearly being a YAMU reviewer is no longer an anonymous profession), so we're not going to review them in detail. The Dolce special features a full fried egg hidden under two sheets of rubbery chicken bacon. The other is a veg-friendly Quattro Stagioni (without the traditional ham and salami).
They also insisted we try their kurakkan pizza, which was superb in its simplicity. Think of it as a starter or healthy replacement for garlic bread. In fact, you can use kurakkan as a base for any of the pizzas if you ask.
As before, Dolce doesn't serve any alcohol, but they don't mind if you bring in a bottle of wine. Their drinks selection are the usual ice tea, soft drinks, and coffee, although they've invested in a shiny new coffee machine.
We tried an ice tea (Rs. 100) and lime soda (a tad pricey at Rs. 350), along with a cappuccino (also Rs. 350). The tea and soda were fine, straightforward cold drinks perfect for the heat.
Frothy, strong, and not burnt, the cappuccino was enjoyable. They use Guatemalan Arabica capsules in their machine rather than beans in order to maintain consistency.
Their tiramisu (Rs. 350) is a real steal at that price, because it's packed with quality ingredients and prep. We highly recommend it, along with their other pastries, profiteroles, and eclairs (all around the same price).
Service & Ambience
The service here has always been friendly and efficient. The waiters are very nice, but they're not always well-versed in Italian cuisine so you might want to speak to the owners/management if you want recommendations.
The new ambience is lovely. A converted Colombo 5 house, the new Dolce has lots of space, seating, and natural light. There's also lots of stuff you can choose from their bakery/pastry section.
I'm personally not a fan of pork-substitute products (like substituting bacon with chicken bacon or pepperoni with cut up bits of chicken sausage), but I understand Dolce's decision to keep their customers of different faiths happy. I really recommend trying out their kurakkan base, their pasta, or even just stopping in for a pastry and coffee. This is probably the most reasonable spot for good Italian fare in the city.
Dolce Italia offers some of our favourite baked goodies, especially when it comes to their pastries. They're not just limited to those though, and also have paninis, bruschettas, salads, a variety of pastas and soups, and also a 'main course' section.
Service and Ambience
It's a small but cosy area popping with a couple of bright citrusy greens, turquoise blues, and clean, sharp furniture. A few cushions scattered around one end contributes to the tropical vibe it has going on. You've got a mouthwatering collection of pastries and sweets on display as soon as you enter, with savory items (lasagna, pizzas and the like) onto your left. There are about two or three waitstaff around at any given time, and they're pretty efficient at their job.
Food and Drink
Popping in for a quick lunch, we had some Fettucine with Shrimp and a Milanese di Pollo alla Parmigiana, which is a massive mouthful to say crumb-fried chicken breast with tomatos, mozzarella and olive oil. The dishes were Rs. 1,100 and Rs. 1,500 respectively.
The pasta, creamy, flavoursome, and al dente was delicious and filling. The shrimps in it were succulent and fresh, and the dish overall, was highly satisfying especially as it was hot-hot as we got it.
There wasn't anything wrong with our chicken, except that it was a bit dull for the local palate. You get a few crispy crumb-fried fillets with very, very mild flavouring. We got a complimentary bread basket too, with some lovely fresh bread. That was quite nice.
To finish off, we got a Cannolo (Rs. 220) and a cup of macchiatio (Rs. 350). The Cannolo is a huge roll of puff pastry stuffed and topped off with gooey chocoate ganache - a chocoholic's dream come true.
Dolce's coffees barely ever disappoint: the macchiato was brewed well, aromatic, not bitter, and spotted perfectly.
The prices are expensive, yes. We've ordered off here a few times and have been severely disappointed with the lasagna on several occassions, so we're not huge fans of those anymore. However, their pastas seem to be good, and their coffee great.
Dolce Italia is a simple, charming Italian restaurant and bakery on a busy square on Havelock Road. It's run by a few Italians, and is surprisingly affordable. Our last review when they just opened was of their range of soft buttery pastries, but they now have Italian favourites like pasta and ravioli for grabs, and these authentic dishes get two thumbs up from us.
Judging by the ambience of Colombo's typical authentic Italian restaurants (Santore, Pranzo, La Trattoria), you would not at first expect Dolce Italia to serve up the same fare. The main bakery space is very casual, cafe-like almost, with a cheerful window seat and a few simple chairs and tables. There's an upstairs dining space too though, for busier times in the evening. But overall, this is casual Italian dining, at surprisingly unassuming prices (Rs. 500 - 700), which is pretty new.
In case you missed our last review, we've got to mention Dolce's chef Manuella and director Samir, the two Italian brains behind the enterprise. You'll see them around a lot, and they'll be happy to come sit and have a chat with you if you say hi. Manuella has been in the restaurant business since she was 16, and is an excellent cook, responsible for everything from the fettuccine to the ice coffees.
Check out our previous review to read about their bakery menu of croissants, cornettos, et al. They're good. But this time we tried the mains.
The shrimp fettuccine was our favourite from what we got, and we recommend it. It was a very filling and satisfying lunch that cost Rs. 700 - plenty of thick ribbony pasta as you can see (fettuccine means 'little ribbons' in Italian), tossed about in a killer creamy, tangy tomato shrimp sauce. I don't know what Manuella put in that sauce but it was perfection (I wish there had been more shrimp, but that's just because I'm greedy).
We also got the spaghetti carbonara (the chicken-bacon or 'fakon' as we like to call it), for Rs. 700 again (all the pasta mains are priced this way). This tasted good, but was the least exciting of the lot, very lightly garnished with grated cheese and plain strips of fakon.
The beef lasagna was another win, coming in a close second to the fettuccine. Wonderfully cheesy (all hail Italians, the gods of cheese), creamy, baked to just the right point, with the minced beef subtly infused and blending in nicely. Brilliant that this costs just 700 bucks - considering the quality of the ingredients, the care put into the recipe and how filling it is, you'd spend probably double the price for this at any other Italian place.
We also got two tall fresh glasses of iced coffee (Rs. 250) and picked the tiramisu from their collection of refrigerated desserts. At Rs. 300, this is good takeaway-tiramisu, which again you don't easily find at other bakeries. It isn't the best tiramisu, but with its soft, coffee layers and plenty of sugary cream, we have to say it works.
Dolce Italia is definitely a place we'd go back to, both for their authenticity and their affordability (it came to less than Rs. 3000 for three mains, dessert and drinks). It's a pleasant, casual space that can work both for a heavy dinner or an evening snack.
Dolce Italia is a new Italian eatery that's cropped up on that crowded corner on Havelock Road (alongside Amrith and Xilaton). Given its location amid popular fast-food-style Indian/Chinese outlets, we had our doubts about its authenticity. But we were pleasantly surprised.
It just opened, so we'll have to wait another week to sample their mains (pastas, panini et al). But right now they've got some great Italian pastries, biscuits, breads, and good service courtesy of their Italian owner and chef.
Update: They just opened their other branch close-by as well, on the Galle-Road-side of Dickman's Road.
As if the scrumptious picture above isn't evidence enough, the place has got a lovely selection of soft buttery pastries. The above is a cornetto (no, not the Walls kind), something like a danish, which tasted pretty great by pastry standards. A lot like Delifrance pastries but maybe a little better. It cost Rs. 320 though.
The pizzas they had at this Italian joint were unfortunately not the Italian kind, and were a hit and miss. They were made on very thin soft bread but were more like the made-in-the-morning-and-stored-in-the-fridge kind. This is keeping with the whole bakery theme downstairs though and we're hoping we get to sample some real pizzas once their mains are ready next week.
The frollini are little sugary cookies, some of them like gnanakathas. You can get about a dozen for Rs. 180, and they make tasty finger food with a cup of tea.
My favourite was the panzerotti (Rs. 280), a giant sugary croissaint-ish pastry, stuffed at its center with thick, creamy chocolate.
Dolce Italia has a very clean, simple interior. The main door takes you to the bakery section where you get the pastries in glass cases, the breads on shelves, and also a very cute long window seat. There's also a pleasant teal-themed room upstairs for dining-in, for when the place really gets on its feet.
We saw a few Italian customers patronizing the eatery, so like the throngs of Chinese customers at a legit Chinese restaurant, it says something. On your visit you'll also probably bump into the Italians behind the business - Director Samir Noumeh, a very jolly giant, and the chef Manuella, who - we were told - has been in the restaurant business since she was 16 years old.
Dolce Italia is still brand new, and we'll have to visit again for the final verdict - but so far, their stuff seems to be quite authentic and made with quality ingredients. It's a comfy place to relax and have some quality short-eats and biscotti at the window seat, and we hope their main dishes are going to be just as good.