I was on the hunt for some take-out and came across Caffe Dolce Vita while perusing a virtual Providence in Google Earth. They had a pretty web-site and a simple, yet tasty-sounding menu. Also, I was hungry and my long-term mate, the ever-flexible person that she is, wanted tortellini... and only tortellini. Federal Hill seemed like a good place to go for pasta. I had heard that a few Italians live there. Who knew?
In my short sojourn at the restaurant, the interior struck me as nice and well-lit. Not exactly oozing character, but even if it was austere, it was nice. A little romance injected compliments of some red lighting, a nicely presented bar, and large mirrors made the room seem larger and a bit more dynamic than it really is. One thing about which I was really disappointed was the total lack of a fountain. Even a small, ornamental one they bought at Sam's Club. The fountain scene is the single most famous scene in the movie that is their namesake. What were they thinking? I want a half-naked woman in a fountain, damnit!
The menu is simple, with lots of sandwiches, pastas, and some standard, but still attractive, desserts. For an appetizer, the crab cakes were inhaled. I liked the them a lot. They were pretty light on the crab, and the deep frying they went through was a bit dense, but they made up for it by being wedged full of more ingredients than is commonly seen. Corn, chopped peppers, and herbs saved them from being heavy and uninspired. They included lots of tartar sauce, and $8.95 for two of them is a fair price.
For entrees, we ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana, Tortellini Al Alfredo, and Fusilli Alla Vodka. All three were very good. The tortellini was firm with an excellent filling, not surprising since it was most likely Venda Ravioli. The alfredo sauce was cheesy and flavorful, if not a bit on the watery side. The eggplant parmigiana was exactly that. The fusilli was good and thoroughly covered in a well-made vodka sauce. It was light on the pancetta, which is something I really wasn't expecting with a $14 price. The desserts were what I expected, good. The peanut butter pie was disturbingly rich, and the cannelloni was good, but short on the chocolate chips.
In fact, everything was good. The interior, the menu, the quality, it was all good. Everything was as I would expect from a place that seems to aiming towards being a good, everyday Italian restaurant. Everything except the price. For example, the fusilli. It was good pasta, but just that, pasta. It was a pile of fusilli, covered in a pile of sauce, for $14.
That's my only complaint. The price seemed disconnected from the experience. If this was a family restaurant, operating in some hole in the wall, where all the locals go, the prices would be downright absurd. In that same Italian hole in the wall, the plate of pasta I got would cost me less than $10. The (small) slice of peanut butter pie was $8.95. Round that puppy up to a full $9 and you can buy two whole desserts and a coffee at many other places. Combined with dynamite neighbors, such as Pastiche, Scialo Bros. Bakery, and Pane e Vino, Dolce Vita simply can't compete.
Otherwise, like I said, everything was good, which is pretty good. And if I have the hankering for pasta at 12:30am, there aren't many places that I know for a fact are open. All things considered then, there's a decent chance that I may, again, find myself living the sweet life... I'll just have to pay for it.
Caffe Dolce Vita: ++
All the prices are for their dinner menu. A lunch menu is available at reduced prices.
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59 De Pasquale Ave
Providence, RI 02903
Sunday through Thursday 8:00am to 1:00am
Friday & Saturday 8:00am to 2:00am