3 stars for stylish, homey Italian at South Beach's Dolce

f you’re thinking the last thing South Beach needs is another fancy Italian restaurant, Dolce might make you think again. It’s perfectly situated, across the street from the Delano in the newly rehabbed Gale Hotel, a Deco jewel spit-shined with exquisite detail. Dolce parent, LDV Hospitality, is no stranger to the business. With more than 19 venues across the globe, including Scarpetta and Lucy’s Cantina Royale in our own backyard, it can run a class act. Enter from Collins or Washington and find seats on two levels as well as under wide patio umbrellas that bring back memories of long evenings spent in Roman piazzas.

The scene inside is equal parts good looking and just plain good. The specialty is pizza; however, veteran executive chef Paolo Dorigato from Trento (near Milan) also puts out fantastic salads, hand-rolled pastas and risottos as well as lovely grilled dishes.

Ambience: Dolce iss stunningly beautiful with its minky-gray wood-paneled walls and cushy leather banquettes. The low-slung light globes make the buff and buffed crowd
look even better. Tables and staff are dressed sharply in contrasting white and black. It’s crisp. It’s new. Yet it all feels as if it has been there forever. Since way before attitude came to town.

What Worked

  • John Lermayer’s creative Italian cocktails
  • A randomly organized (work-in-progress) wine list divided roughly between New andOld World
  • Plenty of glasses from $10 to $30
  • A complimentary hot, flaky, soft and salty focacciaina dotted with tiny sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • Napoletana pizza with anchovies, capers, nice pops of briny bits and a chewy crust with the requisite touch of charcoally black char
  • A large tre colore salad – a lightly dressed bowl composed of evenly chopped, perky leaves of arugula, radicchio and endive
  • An addictive arugula salad with pears, asiago cheese, slender sheets of just-sliced speck and sweet candied walnuts
  • Grilled fingers of octopus with a bed of tiny chickpeas, farro dotted with pistachio nuts and a hint of ginger
  • Swoon-worthy buttery balls of curd-filled burrata over Boston lettuce, cherry tomatoes, crispy shallots and bacon
  • A simple, fresh tower of tuna tartare with a zing
  • Taglietelle (dyed green from verdant basil pesto) with springy rock shrimp
  • Textbook eggplant parmigiana with top-of-the-line, melty, buffalo mozzarella and fine tangy sauce of San Marzano tomatoes
  • Juicy roast chicken with a shatteringly crisp golden skin, bronzed fingerling potatoes, baby asparagus tips and perfect squares of roasted red and yellow
  • peppers
  • Skillful and classic branzino
  • A mozzarella bar with fresh, enticing made-to-order platters of glossy orbs
  • Tiramisu
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Cannoli
  • A fanatically light and silken panna cotta with the bright tropical tang of mango puree

What Didn’t Work

  • House-made pastas that can be a bit salty and large
  • Service that can be a bit overexuberant – one waiter took to banging his fist on the low wooden divider between the tables to emphasize how much he liked certain dishes