Charlotte has a number of Italian offerings, and on a weekly basis, I find myself driving by a small Italian joint, tucked into a Harris Teeter shopping center in Dilworth. The sign out front boasts Best of the Best in Charlotte Awards and it always piqued my interest. On top passing Dolce several times a week, I kept hearing, through friends and coworkers, that Dolce served up some really good food. So when a Dolce Groupon popped into my inbox a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to snag it to give me a chance to check it out!
(At this point, I will apologize for the lack of photos in this post. I only managed to snag a shot of gnocchi because sometimes you just want to enjoy a meal and a conversation without taking photos of your food).
My meal at Dolce will affectionately be named Cheese Fest 2013. I mean, I love cheese. It makes everything better. And you really can’t have too much cheese. Reading about this meal will prove that to you (I’ve been walking around for over a week since eating all the cheese at Dolce and am still standing and have yet to have a heart attack, which proves my theory that there is not such thing as too much cheese).
We went on a Tuesday on the later side of dinner, so there were no issues getting a table (in fact, we were the last people to leave the restaurant, but were never rushed to get the heck out, which I appreciate). It had been a long day, so we splurged on a bottle of wine–Dolce’s wine bottle prices are on the more expensive end, but we settled on a delightful, moderately budget friendly at $34, bottle of red (wines by the glass range from $8, so a bottle seemed worth it). The menu, while not huge, took us a while to peruse because, at least for me, everything sounded so delicious I couldn’t make a decision. However, my decision was more easily made for me when our waiter told us the specials of the day–housemade gnocchi, only made on Tuesdays because of the labor involved with fresh gnocchi. Since it was Tuesday, I obviously had to go with the gnocchi. It only was a 10 minute more grand debate as to which sauce to get–there was a special sauce with the mention of lobster, and while intriguing, sounded too rich for my dining mood. So after going back and forth for a while, I decided to just ask the waiter, and he narrowed it down to the pesto cream sauce (his favorite) and the four cheese (the most popular ordered by patrons). Based on the start to the post, can you guess what I ordered? I definitely went with the four cheese which was a delightful choice.
The gnocchi were delicious; they were these light, little, soft pillows of creamy, cheesy taste. The sauce was almost a velvety texture; it was a rich, flavorful cheese sauce that was warm and delitcately glazed each bite. While I’m not always a fan of cream and brown foods (I like my dishes to have pops of colors and greens in them, to make them look more vibrant, appetizing and healthy) this tan toned dish, while monochromatic, was quite tasty. It was damn good gnocchi; and everyone should head over to Dolce on a Tuesday to enrich their taste buds with this delight.
To back up (I’m all for doing things a little out of order now and then and was so pumped about my main I jumped the gun on our appetizer), we got the burrata to start. The burrata is not on Dolce’s menu, but based on reviews I’ve read, it is a rotating special and is to die for. I was jonesing for some burrata and was so thrilled that it was an option for our dinner. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, and Dolce’s is homemade–clearly (and as we would hope). The result of the combination gives the cheese an outer shell with the mozzarella, and then a creamier, smoother inside (which is appropriate, because burrata means “buttered” in Italian). Smooth as butter is the best way to describe this wonderful appetizer; it was rich, silky and extremely flavorful. It came with apricot jam, dressed arugala, crostini and fresh, bright tomatoes. My favorite combination was the apricot and cheese; I which I didn’t think I would like with cheese but I was wrong, this was my favorite combination–I loved the salty and sweet flavor profile. The fresh tomatoes and arugala were also excellent; something about their fresh, bright flavor always pairs well with cheese. And the crostini was the perfect vehicle; I can’t ever say no to carbs and the burrata spread smooth as silk across the crusty bread. For an appetizer the price was a little steep ($14.95) but it was worth it (and I was pretty full after it and didn’t need the rest of my meal).
On top of appetizers, we also got the complimentary bread basket which was tasty (and I used some of that bread for the burrata as well). Rather than the traditional butter or olive oil that comes with bread baskets, Dolce serves theirs with white beans and spices. Beans are a good vehicle for assertive flavor, and these were delicious, but kept rolling off my bread (so I just started to eat the two separately…it seems that I am a delight to go out to eat with).
My friend got the marsala–veal scaloppini topped with prosciutto, sautéed in marsala wine sauce with forest mushrooms. I got to steal a few bites of his and I’m happy I got to taste it. The veal was thinly sliced, but a little dry (I don’t eat veal often, it’s not my go to protein of choice, but this was a little tough). The sauce was fragrant and made up for the dried meat; it packed a punch of flavors in every bite. And the mushrooms were tender and delicate, which was a good compliment to the meat as well.
We had a good food, good wine and an overall lovely meal at Dolce, but the price tag was more than I traditionally like to pay. I do have to say the burrata and fresh gnocchi were well worth the price; and while the marsala was good, I have had dishes on par at other Italian eateries in Charlotte (Portofino’s and Mama Ricotta’s are just as good if not better). But you guys, really, I just can’t stop talking about the cheese–I would go back to Dolce for the burrata and gnocchi in a heartbeat (guys if you want good, fresh, gnocchi, please for the love of god, go on a Tuesday). But if I’m looking for a bowl of pasta and sauce cooked with flavor and soul, I might skip Dolce and get the same quality pasta somewhere else for a cheaper price.