Just a few doors down from the entrance to Hanover Street in Boston's North End, lies a truly Italian dining experience - Dolce Vita. I first heard about the restaurant from a coworker at my old job. He'd gone for his mother's birthday dinner and would not stop raving about it. When my current coworker (and cubemate) asked for a recommendation for a dinner spot in the North End, I said - I hear Dolce Vita is great. She loved it so much, she went back for Valentine's Day with her new beau.
So I figured it was time to check it out myself! I went with a girlfriend I usually go out with for restaurant week. We walked from her apartment in the West End and were greeted by the owner himself! He sat us in a cozy corner. Our table was against the long wall, which is lined with a very comfy bench, that looks and feels more like a couch.
The owner immediately asked if we'd like some bread, garlic bread or bruschetta. We had not even opened our menus yet! We asked for the plain old bread (we already spotted the olive oil on the table) while we looked over the multi page menu.
I turned to the back page titled "Dolce Vita Specialties". I decided on the manicotti which was homemade pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, and covered in a tomato cream sauce. Um, YEAH.
My dining companion was less decisive, so the owner asked - what are you in the mood for, Bella? She described, and he said - Ah ha, I know what you need! He wound up bringing her pasta stuffed with veal and pork, covered in a tomato sauce.
We were mid way through our rich pasta dishes when the lights went out. Then I saw it - a birthday candle. The owner approached the birthday boy (who looked about 55) and began conducting the whole restaurant in "happy birthday" while holding his hands firmly on the birthday boy's shoulders. Everyone cheered and clapped, and I felt like I was at a private Italian family's birthday party in their home.
After dinner we could barely moved. As we put on our coats, the owner came over and kissed our hands, and thanked us for coming. Its clear he really loves his business and everyone who comes through the door is treated like family.
Post-pasta coma we walked up a few doors to a bakery called Modern Pastry. I had never been and I was stunned to see all the decadent treats. Rum cake so light and fluffy it looked like a cloud. Eclairs the size of a Fenway frank. Strawberry cheesecake, chocolate covered cheesecake (I know, too good to be true), biscotti, cannoli, fruit tarts, cupcakes and frosted cookies. I was too full to try any, but made a mental note to come back.
If I thought I could live on Hanover Street without gaining 800 pounds, I'd move there in a hot minute! Talk about a dolce vita!