MONROE — Dolce Vita Italian Grille serves up a delicious alternative to the diners, barbecue, steakhouses, and other similar establishments that overwhelm area searches for restaurant options.
For those moments when you just want to get away and splurge on some upscale eating that won’t break your bank account, this Italian restaurant is a diamond in the rough nestled inside a shopping plaza in Monroe.
★ ★ ★ ★
Address: 391 N Telegraph Rd., Monroe.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Friday, and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Wheelchair Access: Yes
Average price: $$$-$$$$
Credit Cards: MC, V, D
Parking will not be an issue, particularly during the week. And those who abhor the bright sun during the summertime, Dolce Vita offers solace with dim lighting and decor elaborate enough to warrant dressing a bit fancier than usual without making you feel guilty if you happen to be more casual.
Our group arrived in the middle of the week before 7 p.m. and were made to feel like VIPs seated in a private room because we brought children — making our group size a bit too large for regular seating. Our waitress was very attentive and before long we were comfortable with drinks and bread in front of us.
Our group started with fried brussels sprouts ($11) with arugula, pine nuts, black truffle, and mustard along with fried mozzarella ($9) with capers and garlic butter. I was pleasantly surprised by the brussels sprouts, and I believe the arugula leaves are the secret to making this appetizer a must-order item. The fried mozzarella balls just couldn’t compete.
Those who like soup will find only mozzarella, French onion, and a specialty soup that is more creamy or cheesy. During our visit, I made the mistake of going with mozzarella, while another in our party more wisely chose the superior cheesy cauliflower. Still, the mozzarella is a good choice if you’re looking for something light to tide you over until the main course.
One factor that separates Dolce Vita from similar restaurants is that many others will serve food that tastes like some college-aged employee tossed together a prepped meal. What was served to us appeared and tasted like a professional chef took time to cook it. (Note: One of the chefs is Rob Campbell, who worked at Mancy’s Bluewater Grille in Maumee and was the owner of the now-closed Revolution Grille in Toledo.)
I doubt I could ever recreate the tasteful mix that was served to me with my Salmon alla Giuseppina ($23). At first, it didn’t look like there was enough food to fill me, but between the salmon and the little gnocchi served on it, I was pleasantly just full enough while still feeling that I had room for dessert.
One detail worth noting is that another in our party ordered the sirloin ($17), but instead was surprised with the more expensive prime rib because the sirloin was sold out. The bill reflected the cost of the sirloin, which, after tasting the prime rib, was a steal.
Possibly the most surprised diner at our table was the one who is far more experienced eating at high-end establishments while traveling. He ordered the lobster meal ($34) and said it was one of the best he’s tasted.
“I’ve had $60 to $80 lobster before, and this one blows them out of the water,” he said. “That’s five stars.”
Last, but not least, we tried each of the four dessert options: the Ho Ho Cake ($5), which is an actual Ho Ho cake encrusted in a chocolate shell, the tiramisu ($6), cannoli ($4), and zeppole ($6).
The top two choices are the cannoli, which is a tubular shell that’s often filled with a creamy filling, and the zeppole, which basically looks like a powdered doughnut with jelly inside. As much as I love tiramisu and some good cannoli, the zeppole reigns supreme here. If you can, try more than one dessert, but if you must choose, the zeppole is king.
For a 30-minute drive out of the city, Dolce Vita offers the perfect short-distance getaway from Toledo, both to entertain some old friends or a change of scenery with your significant other. It’s a little more expensive, but the caliber of food you receive will make it all worth it.
Contact Bill of Fare at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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